Jose Mourinho’s team, for the upteenth time, emerges victorious in a big game and pretty much everyone not Chelsea-related is, again, criticising the manner of the victory. So high is the expectation of soccer lovers today that once a team achieves a certain status, it becomes automatically bound by an unspoken law that says “thou shalt not win without playing exciting, Joga-bonito-esque, attacking soccer.”
People tend to forget easily that the two ultimate goals of soccer– or related sports– are to score and, most importantly, prevent your opponent from scoring. So what if a team sets up with the sole intention of stifling their opposition, and without any plans of scoring themselves? I would argue that the onus is on the other team to break them down.
Afterall, no team in need of a victory will play a 9-1-0 formation. Any team that does that obviously feels that it’s better and more beneficial to play for a draw than risk the possible defeat that might come with a more attacking tactic. If, in this case, the opponent also feels that it’s not worth going all out for the win, the best bet is for both teams to play out a boring draw. This is exactly what Brendan Rodgers should have done with his Liverpool team of last season when they came up against Chelsea.
Even before a ball was kicked, everyone knew Mourinho would come up with a defensive formation to frustrate the likes of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Rodgers, on his part, needed only a draw in that game as a tie would have left Liverpool still in full control of their destiny, and the two final opponents were very beatable. What did he do? He tried to be cute (probably due to overconfidence), went with a reckless attacking strategy, and the rest is history.
Jose Mourinho, however, is no Brendan Rodgers and knows when to play defensively and when to attack with reckless abandon. Although he overdoes it sometimes, like playing defensively against a ten-man PSG, he gets it right for the most part. Most importantly, he knows when to give his opponents the respect they deserve. Playing the way he did against Manchester United was the most effective method he thought would contain the Red Devils given their form, and he was proved right. Ask Manuel Pellegrini if, given the power to reverse time, he would adopt Mourinho’s tactic and the answer would be obvious.
The fact is, a win is a win and any fan would take an ugly win over a beautiful defeat. Granted, you may be annoyed with the manner the victory was achieved but when it comes down to it, you’ll sleep better than you would have had your team lost “with their heads held high.” Anyone in doubt should ask Arsenal fans– especially those who supported the club through those nine, painful, trophyless years– if they cared how the F.A cup victory against Reading this weekend was achieved.
Besides, even a team that wins ugly, actually “won.“ That is, such a team fulfilled the two fundamental rules of the game– score and prevent your opponent from scoring (or at least, as much as you). This is what the soccer community, in their hasty criticisms of Jose Mourinho’s teams often ignore. The “Special One” for all his bus-parking tendencies, somehow manages to make his teams outscore the opposition. If a team accused of playing ugly, defensive soccer somehow manages to use that exact formula to routinely get big wins time and again against “more attractive,” attacking-minded teams, then there’s something wrong with the style adopted by those clubs.
As such, rather than constantly attacking the Portuguese’s methods, others should come up with a plan to stop him. If Mourinho’s team gets thrashed every time he attempts to “park the bus” then maybe he’ll employ a different strategy and everybody will have the beautiful soccer we all crave.