The final round of fixtures from the 2015/16 Premier League season are to be played on Sunday. Chelsea welcome newly crowned champions Leicester City to Stamford Bridge in what will be an emotional return for Claudio Ranieri. Lewis Addley explores how Ranieri’s final Chelsea side of 2003/04 compares to his current Leicester team…
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City proved to be the surprise package of the season and went on to become champions despite starting the campaign as 5000/1 outsiders. Leicester beat Chelsea earlier in the season and now visit the 2014/15 champions in what looks set to be an emotional day for Ranieri against his former club.
‘The Tinkerman’ departed Chelsea after the 2003/04 season, in which his team finished runners-up in the Premier League and were Champions League semifinalists.
So how do Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 12 years ago compare to his championship-winning Leicester team?
As we can see in the table above, there are some statistical similarities between the sides albeit one game in difference as we head into the final round of fixtures.
Ranieri’s Leicester have scored exactly the same amount of goals as his Chelsea side did but have conceded five more.
He won one more as Chelsea manager in the 03/04 season, which he could equal on Sunday, but his Leicester team have converted four less losses into draws. As a result Leicester have picked up an extra point when compared to Chelsea’s tally of 79.
The league tables have some similarities but what about the squads?
It’s no secret that Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions in the Premier League era, a trend that all started back in 2003/04 when Roman Abramovich bought the club and at that time it was Ranieri’s duty or opportunity, whichever way you look at it, to invest money into the side.
So how much money did Ranieri spend at Chelsea in his final season compared to the summer transfer window ahead of the current Premier League campaign?
As we can see the money spent at Chelsea exceeds the money spent at Leicester by a staggering £86,050,000 – arguably unsurprising given the purchasing power difference between the clubs.
Leicester City’s current squad value will have no doubt increased since the start of the season given their performance levels, so how much would a typical starting XI be valued at?
The complete value of this starting XI costs less than Ranieri’s top four most expensive Chelsea signings from the 03/04 season.
There are a few similarities between Ranieri’s teams as he regularly deployed his favoured 4-4-2 formation with both clubs.
The importance of a consistent ‘keeper and backline supported by a holding midfielder is apparent from both of the two sides in question.
The one player who has drawn the most comparison by fans and pundits alike this season is N’Golo Kante, who’s playing style is highly similar to Claude Makelele, with both having an integral role to play in their respective sides. They allowed for their central midfield partner to be free to roam and influence the game, something both Frank Lampard and Danny Drinkwater evidently did well.
Both Chelsea’s and Leicester’s backlines were rarely breached throughout their respective seasons, mainly down to solidarity and consistency. Both of Ranieri’s teams had two centre-backs with a presence in the air and on the ground, as well as pacy fullbacks who assisted their wingers.
Then we can look into the final third of the field, as skilful wingers had the ability to cut open opposition defences, while the strikers were renowned for confidence in their ability to finish.
Riyad Mahrez’s partnership with Jamie Vardy differs slightly from Ranieri’s Chelsea team, who did use the flanks but relied on goals from Lampard in the middle of the park.
Ranieri’s Chelsea side were the nearly men. He failed to win a trophy with the club despite coming close on a few occasions, but fans will argue he played a huge role in setting them on the path to glory. In his first season as Leicester manager he has delivered the goods and will be looking forward to a welcomed return to ‘The Bridge’ this weekend.
How similar are Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 03/04 to this season’s champions? Has ‘The Tinkerman’ become a better manager since his first spell in England?