Coming up to the end of 2014, many point to the festive period and its wall to wall games as the crucial period of the season. It is widely recognised as the section of the campaign that will make or break a season, stretching even the most resilient squad to its limits. While Christmas time is crucial for a team’s season, for Chelsea in recent years, their big test has been November.
The Blues have experienced some tough times in the penultimate month of the year, suffering quite a few setbacks which have gone on to affect their season overall. Many say you can’t win the title in November, and that is of course true… but you can certainly lose it, and in Chelsea’s case that’s been evident in recent times. November is when teams turn good starts into strong seasons, and build up momentum for the tough Christmas run of games.
The problem for Chelsea is that they haven’t been doing that very well in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2013, the Blues have played 16 Premier League games in November, and they’ve picked up just 18 points out of a possible 48. Here we look at how the month has gone for Chelsea in the last five years, and ask what the Blues need to do ahead of their final fixtures of the month.
- Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
- Chelsea 4-0 Wolves
- Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea
The 2009-10 season saw the Blues’ best November in recent years, winning all three Premier League games, including two big clashes, which helped them on their way to winning the Premier League title. The Blues also got great away results in the Champions League, drawing with Atletico and beating Porto. Those results helped them top their Champions League group, and Carlo Ancelotti ended 2009 in a commanding position in his first season at the club.
- Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
- Chelsea 1-0 Fulham
- Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
- Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea
- Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea
Fast forward a year, and Ancelotti’s position becomes less secure. A month that started with the Blues five points clear at the top of the Premier League ended with the Blues down to second. They won just one of their five games as they ruined their fantastic start to the season. Their three defeats that month accounted for a third of their defeats that season, and they finished nine points off champions Manchester United. Carlo Ancelotti’s position was in question from about November onwards, and he was sacked by May.
- Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea
- Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
- Chelsea 3-0 Wolves
While this was one of the Blues’ better Novembers, it was a far from impressive month. The reign of Andre Villas Boas wasn’t a long one, and this month didn’t help his cause. The Blues recorded two wins out of three, but they were lucky that they faced two sides who were on their way to being relegated that season. They lost to Liverpool at home in the league and in the League Cup, while two poor Champions League results almost eliminated the Blues from Europe’s premier competition, just months before the 2012 win.
A draw at minnows Genk, followed by a defeat at Bayer Leverkusen had the Blues worrying for their place in the knockout round. Of course, they did make it through, but these results made them sweat. Fast forward to 2014 and a draw at the group’s lowest seeds followed by a trip to Germany is exactly what the Blues have this month, and they’ll need to do better when they go to Schalke.
- Swansea 1-1 Chelsea
- Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
- West Brom 2-1 Chelsea
- Chelsea 0-0 Man City
- Chelsea 0-0 Fulham
Chelsea began life as European Champions well under Roberto Di Matteo, but they began to fade away. The Blues where stuttering in the league and in Europe, and after a 3-0 defeat at Juventus, Di Matteo was sacked. Rafa Benitez replaced him, but the Blues where unable to turn their form around in November. Their only win of the month came under Di Matteo, a 3-2 win at home to Shaktar Donetsk, with those two away goals ultimately eliminating them. The four draws in the league were almost half of the draws the Blues had across the season (nine), and the Blues ultimately finished third that season.
- Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea
- Chelsea 2-2 West Brom
- West Ham 0-3 Chelsea
In 2013, the month of November started with a disappointing defeat at Newcastle, and the Blues almost lost their unbeaten home record under Jose Mourinho against West Brom. A highly dubious last minute penalty helped the Blues to a 2-2 draw, but this was the first sign of the troubles against smaller opposition that plagued them last season. The month was rounded out with an impressive 3-0 win over West Ham, and the Blues have continued in that vein.
This season’s November hasn’t been so bad for the Blues and they have beaten QPR and Liverpool in the league and they drew at Maribor. The win over Liverpool in their last game was the first good performance of the month, and the Blues will hope to maintain that in their last three games.
They face three crucial matches this month, against opposition that could prove extremely difficult. Next up for the Blues is West Brom, who they’ve beaten just once in their last five meetings. After that, they face a must-not-lose game against Schalke in the Champions League, against former boss Di Matteo. The Blues wrap up the month with a trip to Sunderland, to whom they’ve lost in their last two meetings.
While the Blues have a big advantage going into November, they also had one back in 2010. A Mourinho side is unlikely to lose a lead like Ancelotti’s did, but the Blues need to be focused for the rest of this month if they are to kick and get themselves into an unassailable lead in the title race. They currently look on course to win at least one trophy this season, and they’ll have a much better chance of doing that with a good finish to November.