Why we should stop calling team defending 'parking the bus'

Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers described Chelsea’s tactics on Sunday as parking two buses but should we change the way we think about team defending?

The Northern Irishman was critical and visibly frustrated, as were his players, following their 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea on Sunday, a result that once again blew the Premier League title race wide open with just two games left to play.

"They parked two buses, rather than one," Rodgers said. "From the first minute they had 10 men behind the ball.”

“We were the team trying to win but we just couldn't make the breakthrough."

The Reds have been in sensational form this year and their defeat on Sunday is their only defeat of 2014. There are no real arguments over Rodgers’ assertion that Chelsea ‘parked the bus’ but its effectiveness to win the game may mean the term ‘park the bus’ should perhaps be adapted to express more respect.

As a neutral watching the clash at Anfield, of course, the game as a spectacle is always in jeopardy when teams play so defensively from the first whistle as Jose Mourinho’s Blues did indeed. However, the game was not dull for a moment. The attack versus defence narrative actually provided ample entertainment for the most part, but we know that defensive tactics can often come in for criticism for being ‘anti-football’.

What Mourinho’s team did was defend for the best part of 90 minutes, which, on the one hand, should be considered a compliment to how much of a threat Mourinho considers the Premier League leaders. However, Mourinho had himself been critical of West Ham’s Sam Allardyce for employing the very same tactics earlier on this season against the Blues.

That aside, Allardyce and Mourinho were both successful in their endeavours to win ‘ugly’. Of course football fans across the world have an appetite for expansive, progressive, and attacking football but, like all things in life, balance is necessary. Nature always finds equilibrium and football is no different. If everyone played the same way as Liverpool have this season, there would be no balance, no resistance, no real conflict which is the essence of drama above all else.

In the narrative of Rodgers versus Mourinho we have all the elements of drama. We have the managers as philosophical opposites (if you’re a Liverpool fan, Rodgers is the protagonist with Mourinho the antagonist and vice versa for Chelsea fans) but the protagonist’s desire (to win the game) is nothing without the obstacles that challenge him from achieving what he wants.

We should not bemoan team defending because it is an art as much as flair and ambition in attacking is. It is not as beautiful to watch, but it is a necessary component of the beautiful game. Rather than painting 'parking the bus' as the villain in this season’s soap opera, perhaps we should consider it a misunderstood plot twist without which football would be poorer in terms of its dramatic value to the viewer.

The frustration it causes only serves to facilitate a breath-taking end to the season that holds our attention until the very last minute of the very last scene. Whomever your hero of choice is, the Premier League has served us well this season and it is in no small part down to the parking of buses which, in future, should perhaps be changed to just plain old-fashioned team defending. That is all it really is, and regardless of its infuriating results, it is a very necessary evil in modern football.

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