Stats: How much has Mourinho improved the Chelsea defence?

José Mourinho Celebrates

Some accuse him of 'parking the bus'. Here are some statistics to show to what extent Mourinho's defensive strategy has worked this season compared to the three most recent Chelsea managers.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea can boast the best defence in the Premier League this season.

Several commentators and pundits have been critical of the side in front of goal during this campaign but have been full of praise for the Blues' defence this season.

There have been several occasions this season when their defence has been applauded, in 0-0 draws against Manchester United and Arsenal away from home, a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City, and the latest was on Sunday after a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

With Mourinho in his second spell in charge, has Chelsea’s defence always been solid? Has he taken it to the next level? Or, is the majority of the work down to the former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss?

In the two seasons prior to Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had three managers at the helm in Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez. Silverware came in both of those seasons but the side finished some way off the pace in the Premier League title race.

So, here is a look at the key statistics when it came to their defending:

  Clean SheetPlayed
Chelsea 6 25
  Goals Conceded / playedPlayed
Chelsea 1.24 25

During their 25 games under the stewardship of Mourinho's apprentice in Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea's defensive record wasn't much to write home about, having only kept the six clean sheets during in the Premier League under his guidance. The Blues were lying in fifth position in the table when the Portuguese international was dismissed by the club but were right in the hunt to finish in the top four having collected 43 points during his spell, but he was replaced by his assistant Roberto Di Matteo.

Here are the headline statistics that show how the defence performed under Di Matteo: 

  Goals Conceded / playedPlayed
Chelsea 1.15 13
  Clean SheetPlayed
Chelsea 4 13

They kept more clean sheets at a regular rate and the amount of goals conceded per game on average was reduced. This was during a time when priorities changed for the Blues having collected 21 points in 13 games under the Italian. But during that time, the focus seemed to change more to silverware on offer rather than finishing in the Champions League places that season. They won the Champions League to maintain their place amongst Europe's elite and lifted the FA Cup, in what ultimately proved to be a successful, if at times turbulent, season.

But then we go into the following season with Di Matteo still at the helm, with an exciting looking Chelsea side that looked promising going forward, and the defence in a pretty similar state to the previous season when the Italian took over having conceded 13 goals in 12 games and averaging two points per game.

  Goals Conceded / playedPlayed
Chelsea 1.08 12
  Clean SheetPlayed
Chelsea 4 12

They were on the brink of elimination in the Champions League but they were just the four points of the pace in the title race. Then came the unpopular move to install former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez in charge at the club, a man who was renowned for wanting a strong defence and statistics suggest the Spaniard did tighten things up a little.  

  Goals Conceded / playedPlayed
Chelsea 1.00 26
  Clean SheetPlayed
Chelsea 10 26

Chelsea faded in the title race, and under Benitez they were one point off matching the early season pace of Di Matteo at two points per game by finishing the season on 75 points. After dropping down to the Europa League, they went on to win it against Benfica. The interesting aspect is that Benitez continued to bring down the average amount of goals conceded to one goal per game, and if you were extrapolate the figure of clean sheets, you would get a pretty good return of 14 or 15. The Spaniard also had a habit of leaving captain John Terry out of his starting line-up.

But then Jose Mourinho returned to the club this summer, and the side is within two points of the Premier League leaders Liverpool with just two games to go, and are also in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Many will say they got to this position on their good defence more than anything, having only conceded 26 goals in 36 games during the campaign.

  Goals Conceded / playedPlayed
Chelsea 0.72 36
  Clean SheetPlayed
Chelsea 17 36

It's certainly an impressive feat this season to reduce the amount of goals conceded per game by a quarter compared to the previous manager. John Terry and Gary Cahill have been a rock at the heart of the Chelsea defence - and Terry's reintroduction as a regular starter, along with faith shown in him by Mourinho, may be a huge part of that success at the back. There is also the aspect that the defenders have got that little bit more experienced, and the move of Cesar Azpilicueta to left-back may have also helped.

Some may say the statistics are down to 'parking the bus'. But when Mourinho has wanted a clean sheet from his players, certainly away from home this season he's got one - especially against the sides pushing towards the top of the league when he knows the onus is on them to take the game to his side. Compared to the other managers in recent seasons, it shows that he clearly has that bit of magic and he's a defensive specialist. 

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