CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho has derided football’s fetishisation of possession statistics, arguing that the game is losing sight of the only numbers that truly matter.
Continuing a strident defence of the style in which his team have marched to the brink of the Premier League title, Mourinho yesterday insisted it was contradictory to prioritise ball retention over scoring goals.
It followed his outburst after Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal, in which he hit back at Gunners fans who aimed “boring Chelsea” taunts at his team by mocking their 11-year wait to win the top flight again.
“Sometimes I ask myself about the future. Maybe the future of football is a beautiful green grass carpet, without goals. On that beautiful grass pitch the team with more ball possession wins the game,” said Mourinho.
“People say ‘my team played fantastically well, we had great ball possession’. Good. But it looks like the goals are not there. It’s a big contradiction.
“Sometimes you speak about a team like us who have scored so many goals being boring, but you don’t consider a team that has 70 per cent of the ball possession but cannot win the game boring.
“I ask myself in the future, when I am a granddad at home with my grandsons, maybe football will be played without goals, and we will just enjoy seeing people passing the ball.
“Maybe to put the ball into the net won’t be an objective, and maybe stopping the ball going into your own goal won’t matter.
“I’m simple in my analysis: football is about putting the ball in the net of your opponent and stopping the other team putting the ball in your net.”
Only Manchester City have scored more goals than Chelsea in the top division this term, while Mourinho is unabashedly proud that his side have occupied first place throughout the campaign.
“In any point of analysis in any criteria you can find, we are the best team or the second-best team. It’s as simple as that,” he added.
Mourinho and Chelsea have the opportunity to improve their record and tighten their grip on a first Premier League crown since 2010 when they visit relegation-threatened but resurgent Leicester tomorrow.
Veteran striker Didier Drogba could be called on to lead the line again, amid lingering doubts over first-choice frontman Diego Costa’s susceptible hamstrings and the continued absence of understudy Loic Remy.
The Blues can extend their lead to 13 points with victory at the King Power Stadium, setting them up to clinch the title with three more points at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“If it was a player without an injury history I would play him, but because he is a player with a history I have to think about that,” Mourinho said of Costa, who has missed Chelsea’s last four fixtures.
“We need five or six points. If we can get one or three on Wednesday it would be very good for us, but after Leicester we have still four matches to play. We have to decide.”
What we considered
■ Are Chelsea boring or is it just sour grapes from success-starved Arsenal supporters? We examined both the win ratio and rate of goals scored and conceded for each of the English champions for the previous 10 years to see how they compare with the Blues. For added spice, we added the Gunners’ celebrated 2003-04 Invincibles side into the mix too.
Scoring, scoring Chelsea?
■ If goals scored per game is a reliable measure of entertainment then Chelsea don’t compare too favourably to recent champions. Of the previous 10 title-winning teams, only three had a lower average number of strikes per match than the Blues’ 2015 vintage – and two of them were also Jose Mourinho Chelsea sides (2004-05 and 2005-06).
Goals at both ends
■ It hasn’t all been wins to nil, though; there have been goals at the other end. For all the praise heaped on their defence, this Chelsea side is not as miserly as some. They are the equal of any champions since 2009-10, when Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues won the double, but well short of Manchester United in 2007-08, who shipped just 0.26 goals per game.
More efficient than Invincibles
■ Chelsea’s win rate of 70 per cent is slightly below par for recent champions, though there is time for that to improve and it is currently better than Arsenal managed in their Invincibles campaign. Their 2.39 goals scored per game is also only just shy of that famous Gunners team’s 2.46.
Words: Frank Dalleres. Research: Ayub Nouinou