Chelsea teach Barca and Real an ugly football lesson

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    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.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • May 24th 2012 @ 3:19am
      Roger Rational said | May 24th 2012 @ 3:19am | ! Report

      Good article. Chelsea are almost old-school Italian in the way they can adjust the tempo and shape of their game to suit their opponents.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 8:25am
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        Thank you Roger. Good point there on Chelsea being almost old-school, a system that still works wonders :).

    • May 24th 2012 @ 9:13am
      Midfielder said | May 24th 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      I play [well if you call playing at 57, OK this season is out but I shall return] anyway’s I play in that DM mid role and am a card carrying member of the defensive players…. Its up to the strikers and attacking mids to break us down…

      My team plays a passing game from the back and we attack a lot but at times we need to defend… to hold your shape, close out passing options, at times zone mark and ant times man mark and sometimes both…. to understand when those in front are stuffed and just need some time to recover meaning holding the ball, drawing the other side out of shape, creating gaps in the other side by holding the ball …. to deny attacking teams time and space on the ball in the final third they can have all the ball they want in their own half, just stay focused on not allowing a break in your defence…

      An old saying Strikers win matches … defences win competitions…

      • May 24th 2012 @ 10:26am
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        Hello…playing at 57 is indeed wonderful and am sure you’re good at it. Always good to hear it from someone actually involved in the game. And you’ve nailed it with your end statement. Thank you.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 12:17pm
        jbinnie said | May 24th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

        Midfielder – At the highest levels of the game there should be no difference between “strikers” and “defensive”players”. This is a fallacy cited by many when assessing teams like Barca,Real,Munich or Chelsea for that matter. The simple explanation is that there are 22 players on the field and only one ball. With that as a never changing fact we are then faced with the quandry,can a team attack without the ball?. The simple answer is NO. As the game in it’s basic form is a game of opposites we then must ask the question, do a team have to “defend” when they are in possession of the ball?. The answer,the same resounding NO.
        In today’s game at the high levels EVERY player in the team is encouraged to think and act like a defender and as an attacker. The differential is whether they have possession or are trying to win possession.You may ask what does “your” attacker do when his team loses possession in midfield. He is expected to try and get ball side of his nearest opponent thereby cutting of an option for the ball carrier. If you can imagine this going on all over the field it makes the job of the ball holder extremely difficult.
        Converse to that if the ten players in the team WITH possession are constantly moving away from their nearest opponent this opens up the options for the ball carrier.
        You see it is an amazingly simple game,only people make it difficult ,and in writing this I am reminded of a question we used to discuss years ago,it being. “in the PERFECT game of football what would the score be at 90 minutes”?. Think carefully before you come to a conclusion Your mate jb.

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2012 @ 10:36am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | May 24th 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Here are some indisputable facts – not my opinions:
      a) Bayern had much more possession 64% to 36%
      b) Bayern had more attempts on goal
      c) Bayern had 20 corners, Chelsea had 1 (and they scored from this 1 corner in the 87 minute!)
      d) Chelsea won the game on a penalty shoot-out after a Bayern player hit the upright with his shot (remember after 3 spot kicks each, Chelsea were 3-2 behind in the shoot-out)

      So, let’s not over-dramatise or re-write history when we deconstruct what happened in Munich last week-end.

      Chelsea won the match – not b/c of any particular strategy or tactic.

      Chelsea won because Bayern never took their chances in open play during the 90 minutes. Chelsea won because Robben missed a penalty in Extra Time.

      In my opinion, a Cup Final that is won on the 5th penalty of a shoot-out is not due to some superior strategy; it’s simply due to luck. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest Robben’s penalty miss in the 95 minute has anything to do with Chelsea’s allegedly superior defensive strategy of “parking the bus” or “playing ugly”.

      Sometimes in football – just as in life – there is no logical explanation for why something occurred and the universal philosophical explanation should be adopted … “sh*t happens”.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 11:18am
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        Hi Fussball…I agree with you but don’t you think that when a team fails to take their chances, you pay for it? Chelsea did approach the last few games of the competition with a very defensive strategy, and took their chances, which is most important. Yes, luck is pivotal, but one has to make his own luck ‘happen’. I don’t mean to get into an argument here, no offence. Thanks.

        • Roar Guru

          May 24th 2012 @ 11:32am
          Fussball ist unser leben said | May 24th 2012 @ 11:32am | ! Report

          Hi k77sujith

          100% agree that a team fails to take the chances, then they risk losing the game.

          In my opinion, the reason Chelsea didn’t concede multiple goals – against Barca at Stamford Bridge & Camp Nou; or against Bayern in Munich – had NOTHING to do with Chelsea’s defensive strategy but a lot to do with luck, fantastic goal-keeping and poor finishing.

          The fact that Barca & Bayern got behind Chelsea’s defense on multiple occasions means Chelsea’s defense was broken on numerous occasions & luck, poor technique from the strikers & Petr Čech’s outstanding form prevented Chelsea losing.

          I think Barca hit the woodwork 3-4 times over the 2 leg SFs in the UCL. When the opponent hits the woodwork, to me, that’s not “good solid disciplined defending” .. .that’s just pure good luck.

          • May 24th 2012 @ 2:10pm
            k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

            Yes Fussball…you’re right. But, I’m sure you saw how Chelsea defended in huge numbers in the last 20-30 mins or so against Barcelona over the two legs. That in itself demands a totally different mindset and approach which only teams like Chelsea or Inter can execute. As for Barca and Madrid, there is a natural temptation to go all out on attack even if they are well on top of the game. If they are willing to sit back and adopt defensive tactics, they might have a better chance of winning big matches over two legs. Ok, now I know I’m heading nowhere with this :). Thanks.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 8:14pm
        j binnie said | May 24th 2012 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

        Fuss – Did you happen to notice who gave away that all important penalty that Bayern missed during that extra time . Yes it was Drohgba and I wonder what the Chelsea “spearhead” was doing back in his own penalty area. Was he playing that “new” position,”defensive striker”.- your mate jb

        • May 25th 2012 @ 9:14am
          k77sujith said | May 25th 2012 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          Hi jb…you’re right but the fact that Drogba was playing way behind was probably another indication of Chelsea’s rigid defensive tactics. Thanks.

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2012 @ 10:49am
      Alan Nicolea said | May 24th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Don’t forget that Chelsea did have its fair share of luck in the Champions League. Barca and Bayern did crack them on numerous occasions but very poor finishing kept Chelsea in it. I believe had Barcelona scored an away goal at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea would have been torn apart because they don’t have a plan B themselves. Its all academic now though.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 11:22am
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        Hi Alan…Yes, Barca and Bayern did carve out numerous chances but what they might have failed to do was get defensive when they were on top. They continued to attack, attack & attack and paid the price for it in the end. I just feel in competitions such as the UCL, offensive teams need to tweak their approach at times especially at the business end of the competition. Thanks.

        • May 24th 2012 @ 11:26pm
          dasilva said | May 24th 2012 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

          Well Bayern actually did went defensive after scoring the lead by subbing off Muller for a defensive player and they paid the price for it because they were probably missing him at extra time. It wasn’t their style of play that cost them their defeat but poor finishing. If Chelsea scored a goal from a counter attack and Bayern couldn’t create a decent chance despite a possession then maybe your point would be more valid But Bayern cutting through Chelsea defence but couldn’t finish them off due to poor finishing and Chelsea scoring via a corner doesn’t really suggest superior strategy.

          Now Chelsea deserve their victory because football is about putting away the chances you create but their deserved victory wasn’t due to superior strategy and tactics It was just due to lack of composure and mental strength from the strikers of their opponents during key moments.

          Barca were only in front for like 3 minutes out of the entire two legs, they were behind in the majority of the two legs so it wasn’t the case of them losing because they were gung-ho when they were on top.

    • May 24th 2012 @ 11:33am
      Midfielder said | May 24th 2012 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      Maybe you think we should all play football the Brazilian way … have a look at this match between Futlama & Tempo Gramocil… make your own call … BTW pitch look like Bluetounge after some rain..

      • May 24th 2012 @ 2:05pm
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        Midfielder…nice pick 🙂

    • May 24th 2012 @ 4:33pm
      Mals said | May 24th 2012 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

      Sometimes football analysts will say ‘defence is the best form of attack’. This expression is new to me. How do you score goals while not in possession of the ball??

      I have often heard “Attack is the best form of defence” but not the other way round.

      • May 24th 2012 @ 6:55pm
        k77sujith said | May 24th 2012 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

        Hi Mals…Like you, I’ve never come across defence being the best way to attack. Having said that, no team can always win by adopting the ‘attack is the best form of defence’ approach as well, in my opinion.There’s got to be a balance between both offensive play and defence I reckon. Thanks.

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