In Defense of Jose Mourinho For Chelsea’s Tactics Against Atletico Madrid

Nhìn lại trận hòa toan tính của Chelsea trên đất TBN5

Boring, boring Chelsea! What lowly scoundrels of asinine, archaic, and acerbic anti-football. How dare they let down the neutral fan with these putridly pedestrian performances! Don’t they know? Soccer is all about entertainment; bringing bread and circuses to the hungry masses, not serving self-interest and chasing silverware. How stinking selfish!

If you’ve forayed in to the murky depths of social media, this is probably a familiar narrative for you. There were more tweets bemoaning Chelsea’s tactics than there were fans in the Vicente Calderón on Tuesday. I can honestly say that if I see one more meme about bus parking, my head will explode. I will admit, though, my time on social media during and after the match has led to some interesting and valuable reflection.

First and foremost, a few thoughts about Chelsea’s tactics on Tuesday:

No manager in their right mind would set up against Atlético in any other way. Seriously, any side who wanted a prayer of advancing to the final would have adopted the exact same tactics as Jose Mourinho. It has boggled my mind that so many people have criticized him for employing a defensive minded formation. While I enjoy beautiful football as much as the next fan, there is a time and place for pragmatism. It was common sense, plain and simple. Disagree?

Let’s look at a few key facts about Atlético Madrid—

1. They have yet to lose a single game at home in both La Liga and the Champions League this season.
2. Their starting striker, Diego Costa, has 35 goals in all competitions. Seven in the Champions League alone.
3. They just dispatched free-flowing Barcelona in the last round, matching them tit for tat offensively.

Now, let’s look at some key facts about Chelsea—

1. The second leg is at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea recently came back heroically and beat PSG 2-0.
2. Their three strikers combined Champions League goal tally is nine—a mere two more than Costa’s lone total.
3. Their best attacking player and leading goal scorer, Eden Hazard, is out with an injury.

So, with those facts in mind, why in the hell would Mourinho not play defensively? Going to the Vicente Calderón with an attacking mindset would be stupid and suicidal. Why would Mourinho employ a style that would destine his side to failure? If Barcelona, of all clubs, failed to beat Atlético with a free-flowing and expansive style, then what club could succeed? That is the beauty of Jose Mourinho. He is not shackled by ideology. If he has the right players, he will play open and attacking football (setting goal, points, and goal differential records at Real Madrid in 2011-2012 most recently) but if he does not have the personnel to do so, he will not sacrifice results for spectacle.

Having said that, calling Mourinho’s Chelsea displays anti-football has become a lazy and shallow platitude in and of itself. In the age of information, every football result in the world is at your fingertips. However, searching Google and perusing through social media is a vapidly shallow way to analyze a sport as intricate as soccer. For example, I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen Chelsea catch flack this season for only managing to score a single goal. It is simply easier to hop on the social media bandwagon and make a joke about their “negative tactics” than it is to view the match in full. Were people to do that, they’d realize that such low score lines have been born out of poor finishing and not cautiously defensive tactics. Don’t believe me? Another little factoid for you…

Chelsea has the highest shots per game average in the Premier League at 18.

Despite that stat, they are continually maligned for being negative and boring. The old adage “don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story” is certainly alive and well with modern football supporters. Let’s also ignore the fact Chelsea has scored beaten their top rivals while scoring 2 vs. Liverpool, 3 vs. United, 2 vs. City, 6 vs. Arsenal and 4 vs. Spurs.

The reality is, it is easier (and more fun) for fans to hop on social media and lob potshots and platitudes with no real thought or reflection on the actual performance. The idea that Mourinho is defensive and negative is firmly ingrained in the football fan ethos at this point; facts and statistics be damned, that is just the way it is. It is an easy and safe statement to make, despite its shallow nature; it fits in with the status quo football narrative. After all, social media is about attention and hollow praise, not accurate analysis, right? Considering the Internet is a medium making globalized communication and idea sharing a tangible reality, it is a shame it has become a hotbed for lazy, reductive thinking about the finer points of soccer.

Soccer fans need to get over the idea the sport is eye candy for neutral observers. Why is there no praise for gritty, blood-sweat-and-tears effort, and tactical acumen? Why are common sense tactical decisions met with derision and disdain? Why must fans have such a one-dimensional view of such a complex sport? Will I deny that Mourinho utilized very defensively focused and conservative tactics yesterday? Absolutely not… but can you honestly say, were your club playing Atlético Madrid the Champions League semi-finals, you’d want them to do differently?

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43 thoughts on “In Defense of Jose Mourinho For Chelsea’s Tactics Against Atletico Madrid”

  1. Given the talent Chelsea have in their squad they shouldn’t have to play so negatively. But, if Mourinho feels that it is the best way to get a result then fine. However, when West Ham did the same thing against Chelsea it was Mourinho that accused Allardyce of playing 19th century football.

    It’s Chelsea’s hypocrisy that people are highlighting.

    1. Not really because Chelsea got the flack even after Jose left the first time like when they won the Champions League. The point of game is to win not appease the neutral viewers.

      1. It’s the double standard that irks the neutrals. Why is it acceptable for Chelsea to “park the bus” but not others when they play Chelsea?

        1. That the same double standards that described West Hams performance as “heroic” but is called boring when Chelsea do the same? Those the double standards you mean?

          1. West Hams havent spent probably a tenth of what Chelzzz have spent so dont be ridiculous … Thats a stupid comparison. It is boring when chelzzzz do it coz theyve got world class players and should at least try to play football and also its a bit rich when Chelzzzz own manager criticises other teams for parking the bus, 19th century footy or diving when his own sides are the worst for it. He deserves all the criticism he gets. He’d be the first to complain or to cry conspiracy …

      2. “The point of game is to win not appease the neutral viewers.”

        First of all, the point of football is entertainment. It’s a game, not a war. Winning is certainly fun, but by your statement, I’d imagine you’d jump ship if your blues weren’t winning. Perhaps you need a Suarez shirt for next season!

        Second, sure, for a sugar daddy club like Chelsea, the fans and neutral viewers don’t matter. Daddy Roman will pump whatever money into his toy regardless of whether people watch or not. However, for 99% of clubs, gate revenue, tv revenue (which is based on ALL viewers, not just supporters), and merchandise revenue make up the majority of a club’s funds. To play in this fashion all the time would isolate those supporters without local ties to the club, costing the club millions. To say that the point of the game is not to appease viewers is absolute nonsense.

        1. The object of the match is to win not entertain. Winning is better than losing something you should have learned when you were around two years old. Do you think Moyes was sacked because he wasn’t entertaining enough ? or Barca vowing to buy a lot of players this summer because they fear they aren’t entertaining ?

        2. Well if only the viewers haven’t been brainwashed into thinking you are the Antichrist for siting deep and playing counterattack, then Chelsea can both win while the viewers enjoy. But now it’s one or the other. We beat Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and the likes, and so every neutral cannot enjoy it.
          The good news though is that more teams are starting to do the same (West Ham)even in higher levels (Atletico) soon when everything is divided into those that sit deep and react and those that attack and get countered, then everyone will see the beauty in parking buses and countering. I bet if a team master it and get promoted from the championship everyone (revenue, neutral fans) would flock to them and praise them.
          Until then keep your Suarez shirt, Keep pouring the little revenue you have into something that isn’t working while we keep our structure, sugar daddy revenue and win matches.

    2. I am sick and tired of the 19th century comment. Read or listen to the full interview. Infact he praised West Ham. His quote “‘They need the points but because they need points, to come here and not play and do it the way they did . . . is it acceptable? Maybe yes.
      ‘I cannot be too critical because if I was in this position, I don’t know, would I do the same? Maybe I would.”

      1. What about this one after a goal-less draw with spurs: “As we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal. I would have been frustrated if I had been a supporter who paid £50 to watch this game because Spurs came to defend.”

        1. Well he described what spurs did it’s probably true that many, not all, supporters who pay for entertainment wouldn’t have enjoyed it but spurs did what they had to do. I’d still find a goalless game like that entertaining so that’s just his opinion reflected in the comment after a disappointing result. It’s no surprise that people are unhappy when things don’t go their way, is it?

    3. People have to see the post match interview from the Chelsea West Ham game themselves, instead of just the bits picked up and repeated in the media, to realize that the “19th century football” comment was in reference to time wasting. Jose actually said that he had “respect” and “praise”, and couldn’t criticize how they played.

      We just need to appreciate and enjoy all styles of play coz there is no “right” way to play.

      1. Thanks for pointing that out, Ray. Fits in perfectly with my complaints about the dangers of living in a time where “information” is always a mere mouse click away. If you read a snippet that fits in with your preconceived opinion, why bother finding the whole story or checking for validity?

        I’m also finding it interesting no one has mentioned how much Mourinho praised Tony Pulis’ ability to grind out results a few weeks ago as well. Hm, probably would disprove their point, so better to completely ignore it I suppose…

  2. Trevor great article, but you must be a brave man posting an article like this on this site. I hope you have thick skin.

    1. Truth, reason, and logic are powerful weapons against the trolls of the internet! Not overly worried. Having thick skin is a prerequisite to being a Chelsea supporter now-a-days.

      1. You sound like the crybaby old white guys who have had every advantage in life now whining about how everyone hates them and is prejudice against them. It’s hard to be neutral when it comes to Chelsea. The sugar-daddy owner with his billions in dirty money, the egomaniacal hypocrite manager, and the entitled, glory-hunting fan boys who think Chelsea should just be given trophies.

        1. Cheers for proving my point about modern supporters and the internet, Eddie! When you clearly lack the ability to prove my point wrong, you droll on with a string of ad-hominem and petty, played out insults.

          Unfortunately, I am neither old or a crybaby, or a glory-hunting fan boy; so it would appear your chances of being a psychic are about as bright as your chances of being a football pundit.

        2. People like you Eddie are the problem. Go and support a club that wins trophies instead of insulting people. And yes I already support one; Chelsea FC

    1. They went for an away goal but they needed a Drogba-esque performance from Torres to get it. That is my problem (as a Chelsea supporter) with the strategy. Good strategy but the wrong player. Ba should have started (and that isn’t saying much!)

  3. I hate chelsea, and everything about the club. I don’t blame them, however, for parking the bus. It was a smart tactic, and it worked to a degree. What I can’t stand though is the fact that if any team played Mourinho in this way, he would bash them as cowards, anti-football, and all of the other vitriol currently being sent his way. Just look at his quotes about spurs a few years back. It’s hypocrisy at its finest and that, in my opinion, is why he is losing his status as the media’s darling.

    1. if you hate us, it is your problem.
      Best team in England
      Top 5 in Europe
      Solid defence. Even though we lost 3 key players.
      Imagine Atlitico without Costa, Koke and Courtios playing against Chelsea.

      1. Atletico doesn’t have the money to buy a whole second team of good players as Chelsea has. And your boys are going to finish third in the Prem despite all that money spent.

  4. Thanks for reading, everyone. A few thoughts–

    1. As Ray said, everyone is taking his 19th century comments COMPLETELY out of context. People citing that as proof of Jose’s hypocrisy are guilty of the exact thing I complain about in my article: all too often, modern football fans make judgements based on popular opinion and 30 second sound bites. Take the time to listen/see things for yourself before waving your finger at others. So many people hear what they want about Mourinho these snippets, and take it at face value because it matches their own views.

    2. Comparing EPL tactics vs. CL tactics is apples and oranges. Were this a one off match, we would obviously not have hunkered in as much. However, it wasn’t. Unlike teams like Stoke/West Ham, “parking the bus” is not our de-facto game plan. It was simply a one off necessity to ensure we have any chance of making it to the final.

    3. Going off that point, that was the ONLY game all season we have truly hunkered in and absorbed pressure. Note: counter-attacking is is NOT THE SAME AS parking the bus. Football is not a game of black and white, there is plenty of grey area in between tiki-taka and bus parking. Again, look at our shot per game average.

    1. So you think his West Ham 19th century comments were taken out of context, like his praise of the officials after the Sunderland defeat? This is Mourinho we are talking about. Also, if Mourinho really meant to praise West Ham why did Allardyce respond by saying “I don’t give a s***e about Mourinho, we ‘out-tacticed’ Chelsea”. Everyone knew what Mournho meant by his comments. He has become the master of sarcasm. Even the FA has charged him for his “praise” of the officials.

      1. well victor 3 penalties waved away then lost with a penalty.
        What you think Jose would say?
        FA is so useless, instead of helping Chelsea, they gave 3 big game in a week, they charged Jose, Rui Faria and Ramiers. That is so mindless worth a sarcastic comment. Atleast he didn’t say s*** like The Fat Sam. Or skipped conference like Wenger. And i dunoo what SAF would have said if United’s 3 penalties were waved away.

        You guys just know how to repeat what the crazy media has to say. Didn’t they say Chelsea will park the bus at Etihad?
        Didn’t they say we’ll lose against Galatasray?
        Didn’t they say we’d finish behind Arsenal?


      2. well victor 3 penalties waved away
        then lost with a penalty.
        What you think Jose would say?
        FA is so useless, instead of helping
        Chelsea, they gave 3 big game in a
        week, they charged Jose, Rui Faria
        and Ramiers. That is so mindless
        worth a sarcastic comment. Atleast he
        didn’t say s*** like The Fat Sam. Or
        skipped conference like Wenger. And i
        dunoo what SAF would have said if
        United’s 3 penalties were waved
        You guys just know how to repeat
        what the crazy media has to say.
        Didn’t they say Chelsea will park the
        bus at Etihad?
        Didn’t they say we’ll lose against
        Didn’t they say we’d finish behind

    2. Well, Trevor, what do you think about writers using out of date, hackneyed analogies like Stoke being a team that parks the bus as a de-facto game plan?

      Stoke are not exactly Barca, but under Hughes they no longer play hoof and hope with 9 behind the ball. Ryan Shawcross now regularly finds his way beyond the midfield stripe, strange new territory for him.

      The times they are a changin’ and so to should lazy analogies.

      1. Guy, do you find it ironic that in the same post you bash me for claiming Stoke are regarded as negative, you claim “beyond the midfield stripe” is strange new territory for their striker…?

        A rather shallow, off the cuff comment it may have been on my part, but I don’t think Stoke has thrown off that reputation quite yet.If the statement about Shawcross in your post is anything to go by, at least.

        1. Didn’t think I was “bashing” you, Trevor. Sorry.

          I don’t follow your comment about mine about Shawcross. In the past Stoke could certainly be accused of any number of things. My point was they are no longer accurate. Shawcross, Cameron and other defenders regularly playing in the offensive half of the field is ample proof of that.

          At any rate, it is small potatoes. I think teams should play whatever style gives them the best chance to succeed. To hell with everybody else. I doubt many players or managers think they are in the entertainment business.

          1. Misread your comment about Shawcross, Guy. My point was the fact that supporters still find it alien to see their fullbacks past half field show Stoke haven’t quite shaken their prior reputation. That said, (like I admitted above) it was an off the cuff and rather lazy analogy on my part. Point well made.

            Agreed. I don’t see attendance falling at any club because they play a defensive formation. Any real supporter will get satisfaction/entertainment simply from watching the team they love play the best sport on earth.

    3. Trevor,

      I liked the article and am also a Chelsea fan but regarding #3… they parked the bus against Atletico. Real played a counter attacking game today. Chelsea played a parking the bus game yesterday.

      1. Totally agree, Chris. I was asserting that was the only game this season where we did parked the bus and didn’t even really bother to counter. Wanted to draw a line between last night, and how we’ve played against other top teams this season; matches where we were conservative, but then broke lightning quick from the back as a unit.

        1. Trevor,

          Is that the point you were making? I’m being serious here. My takeaway from your post is that everyone who complained about Chelsea parking the bus in this match is that they are “vapidly shallow,” “one dimensional” in their analysis of football, etc. You start off by taking to task those on social media pointing out how incredibly boring and unambitious Chelsea were in this match. Mourinho literally sucked the life out of it. This is the Champions League semifinal, not David v Goliath in the BPL. Chelsea didn’t counter attack, at all. Nothing wrong with being defensive-minded, but when you have the type of players Chelsea has wouldn’t you expect them to at least have a plan beyond putting 9 men behind the ball?

          Yes, Chelsea has played some fantastic football this season. Hazard and Schurle, in particular, are dynamic attacking players, and with an in-form striker one can imagine how good they would be. But for me, the criticism leveled at Chelsea is legitimate.

          However, if I were a Chelsea supporter I don’t know if I would care either.

          1. Clampdown,

            First, thanks for posting a thoughtful and fair response. I think you mistook who I was leveling criticism at. I freely admit that Chelsea was negative and defensive against Atletico. It was not my intent to ‘take to task’ people saying so. My gripe are with people who claim that Chelsea are always boring or negative; that this game somehow proves Mourinho is a hypocrite and we are ‘dull’ team. My point was there are so man reductive opinions on social media. The idea that this one game sums up our entire season. It’s just a lame-ass way to evaluate football.

            I know Mourinho has really underplayed our chances this year, obviously on purpose in Jose fashion. However, our attack hasn’t been the same with out Hazard. His absence combined with the lack of a decent striker hamstrung hamstrings our attack to the point where it wasn’t worth the risk.

            In regards to the thin skin comment, I really mean to be the opposite. Do I get defensive about Chelsea? Of course. But I look forward to comments like this where I can debate/discuss football with other fans. It’s why I write!

          2. Well, it is true many fans do not analyze deeply, although that seems to be the natural approach by fans everywhere. As a Chelsea fan, I have discovered that the kind of players Chelsea have is the problem with the way they play. In that match, Chelsea lack the players who have the ball-possessing skills for free flowing football. Even, skillful players like Hazard depend on dribbling than ball-passing in order to go pass opponents. However, it is time Chelsea should abandon individualistic style and adopt ball passing play that is the hallmark of good team.

  5. Tactics understood. However, Chelsea may rue the lack of an away goal. I can’t see Atletico not scoring for two matches but if there is a manager that can pull it off, it is the Special One.

  6. How do you win a football match? quite simple actually…. ”PUT THE BALL IN YOUR OPPONENT’S NET”

    So let me get this straight….
    Attacking football (nine man attack one man defense) ”high chances of winning”
    Defensive football (Ten man defense one man attack) ”Low chances of winning


    You are attacking and I am defending… how did I score more goals and you couldn’t reply the same way?

    if attacking football is the way, then we should play our matches with 11 stickers. Defenders should be useless…

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