Football is known the world over as the ‘Beautiful Game’ with its exquisite concoction of elements such as elegance, panache, flamboyance and intensity.
Some of the most amazing elements of football are the goals, but also the skills that come to the fore, the speed, the aggression and stylish team-play.
But, there’s more to the sport than eye-catching attacking football.
Playing defensively and “parking the bus to shut out the opposition” forms a fundamental part of modern game strategy.
Chelsea’s stupendous triumph in the 2011-2012 Champions League was founded on defence.
Sometimes football analysts will say ‘defence is the best form of attack’. However, this was not Chelsea’s strategy and now they lift the cup. Inter Milan employed similar tactics to win the cup in 2009.
This is not to say that Chelsea are not capable of attacking play and turning on the style. They definitely can up the ante as was evident in their round of 16 clash against Napoli, when they rose from the dumps to overturn a 1-3 first leg deficit to win 4-1.
But considering the Champions League is such a demanding tournament, defensive tactics need to be applied by teams at some stage as the competition rolls on.
However, this draws me to another aspect of playing safe. Chelsea is one team that has this uncanny ability to switch between offensive and rigidly defensive play depending on the situation of a game.
This is in contrast to other high-flying teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid who adopt a classy yet predictable one-dimensional approach of attacking play. Yes, these Spanish sides have raised the bar in the sport and are arguably the best teams on the planet, but what they fail to realise is that opposition sides are beginning to spot cracks in their offensive play. That is why Chelsea lifted the cup.
And to make it worse, a team like Barcelona doesn’t have a plan B when the opposition ‘parks the bus’, as was obvious in their semi-final loss to Chelsea.
I don’t question Barcelona’s philosophy since they definitely do engage in delightful football, but they have to accept the fact that sometimes its fine to win ‘ugly’ since the prime objective is to score a win.
William Gallas, during his Arsenal days, vented his frustration by stating that the team had to learn to win ‘ugly’ and not rely on always scoring the ‘perfect’ goal.
The Frenchman was then offloaded from the club for making those comments.
Teams such as Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona must learn to play ugly. They have an over-reliance or rather an overkill of attacking play.
Sitting back defensively to soak up the pressure is beyond their principles.
Chelsea may not be famed for playing attractive football, but they are a team that’s willing to grind out results when necessary.
Winning ‘ugly’ is an approach all teams should be willing to embrace irrespective of their reputation.
And finally, after the weekend’s result, Didier Drogba is the hero.
Roman Abramovich has opened the chequebook a number of times since he signed the star striker, but little did he know that the man who could eventually win him the Champions League was already in his own backyard.