Following his side’s heavy defeat at West Bromwich Albion last night, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho placed as much blame on other Premier League clubs’ inability to take the title race to the wire as he did on his own players.
The 3-0 loss means The Blues have failed to win either of their league matches since mathematically confirming the championship, and while they are far from the only side to have taken their foot off the gas having sealed the title a few weeks early, there is some precedence that suggests doing so doesn’t bode well for the next season. We took a look at the last five times a club has won the Premier League title with more than one game to play, and how they fared from thereon.
2012-13: Manchester United
In what was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season as manager at United, a Robin van Persie hat-trick against Aston Villa wrapped up the title with four league games remaining but the Red Devils struggled thereafter. A draw away at Arsenal was followed by a late defeat at home to Chelsea, with future United signing Juan Mata spoiling the celebrations three minutes from time. While there were able to give Fergie the perfect Old Trafford farewell in his last home game – Rio Ferdinand’s late strike beating Swansea – the last match of the season, Ferguson’s 1500th and final game in charge, offered a sign of things to come. United led 3-0 and then 5-2 at West Brom, but a Romelu Lukaku hat-trick helped The Baggies to fight back and earn a remarkable 5-5 draw. The result offered a glimpse of how the crop of players were when no longer having to avoid Fergie’s wrath, and as we saw last year the team did not offer anything close to a decent defence of their title without him.
2006-07: Manchester United
Chelsea’s failure to beat Arsenal meant Manchester United’s derby win at City the previous day was enough to secure their tenth title of the Premier League era. The first of United’s remaining two league games was at Chelsea, who they were also facing in the FA Cup Final in a fortnight’s time. Both teams rested players for the Stamford Bridge clash, which finished in a drab goalless draw, and then on the final day of the league season United hosted a West Ham United side who had to win to secure survival. Much to the annoyance of Sheffield United, the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench as Carlos Tevez scored in the second half to give The Hammers the win they needed at Old Trafford. It didn’t even turn out that resting the players was worthwhile, as Didier Drogba’s extra-time strike won Chelsea the FA Cup Final that United were saving themselves for. There wasn’t further damage, though, as Ferguson was at least wise enough to sign Tevez that summer and help the club not only retain the title but also win the Champions League.
Back in his first spell at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho confirmed the club’s second successive championship with a 3-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The two matches to play were away trips to Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, who were both chasing Europe, and senior players were rested ahead of the World Cup. The likes of Lenny Pidgeley, Carlton Cole and Geremi got run-outs for Chelsea in consecutive 1-0 defeats (having lost just three of their 36 league games before then) as their opponents confirmed respective UEFA Cup and Intertoto Cup qualification. It was to be Chelsea’s last title for a few years, as The Blues finished 2nd the following year before Mourinho resigned early into the 2007-08 season.
Mourinho’s first season saw instant success for The Blues, with the Portuguese leading Chelsea to their first Premier League title. The championship was sealed against Bolton Wanderers with four games to spare, and unlike the next year it was all guns blazing for the remainder of the campaign. A win at home to Charlton Atheltic was followed by a rampant 3-1 victory at Old Trafford against third-placed Manchester United, most notable for Thiago’s stunning long-range effort. They could only draw at Newcastle on the final day, but Chelsea ensured an incredible record of just one league defeat all season. What they couldn’t do, however, is progress to the Champions League Final – Liverpool famously made it through the two-legged Semi Final with a controversial Luis Garcia goal, and Chelsea were certainly good enough to have given AC Milan a game in Istanbul. It was to be the closest The Blues came to Champions League glory in Mourinho’s first spell, as despite the signing of Michael Essien in the summer they only made the last 16 in 2005-06.
Chelsea’s record of one defeat in 04-05 was nothing compared to the previous year, as Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ went the whole season unbeaten. Sealing the Premier League with four matches to go, The Gunners wanted to maintain their league record but came close to slipping up in their last few games. A 0-0 draw at home to Birmingham City was followed by a 1-1 tie at Portsmouth in which they had to come from behind. An error from Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar then gave Arsenal a 1-0 win at Fulham before a match at Highbury against already relegated Leicester City on the final day. In what should have been the easiest of the lot, Leicester actually took the lead through former Arsenal striker Paul Dickov but the Gooners recovered to win 2-1 and earn a special golden premier League trophy for their unbeaten record. It’s a strong argument not to strengthen or change such a side especially, but after signing just three (poor, in hindsight) players in Manuel Almunia, Mathieu Flamini and Emmanuel Eboue they never recovered from their unbeaten run ended at Manchester United in the next campaign and lost out to Chelsea in the title race.