Do Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea play without 'balls'?

Have Chelsea really lacked courage this season, or have they been forced to play defensively?

Following Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final exit on Wednesday night, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone claimed that his team’s 'balls' were the reason for the victory.

The Argentine coach oversaw his side’s 3-1 win over Chelsea in the Champions League last four at Stamford Bridge, as Blues boss Jose Mourinho stood helpless on the touchline and witnessed the demolition.

Simeone told reporters after the game:'I want to thank the mothers of these players because they gave birth to them with balls this big' and gestured as if holding a football. But did the Spanish giants show more, shall we say, courage over the two-legged affair?

Since Chelsea's 2-0 win over Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, the debate surrounding ‘parking the bus’ tactics has emerged as a matter of real contention once again. Mourinho’s side failed to park the bus or, rather, defend adequately as a team in the second leg after succeeding at that style of play against Liverpool and in the first leg in the Spanish capital earlier in April.

Firstly, it’s important to note that as a human being born without balls, it’s difficult for me to make that analogy, but, as I understand it, they’re sensitive (as an issue) and to suggest that the Atletico players had oversized testicles - as Simeone implied - is information I’m not privy to so I shall assume he really means bravery.

The La Liga leaders certainly played with a lot more ambition than Chelsea, but ‘parking the bus’ as the Blues did against the Reds last weekend surely takes some kind of toughness – both mentally and physically. To keep focused and organised and put their bodies on the line - that takes, well, guts, I suppose. However, to take the game to the opposition, to risk it all and, ultimately, play to win from the first whistle, as Liverpool did (and failed) and Atletico Madrid did (and succeeded) does take bravery and courage.

I think Simeone makes a valid point about the courage of his players to play attacking, expansive and attractive football which risks being left vulnerable – who dares, wins, as they say. This season, without the threat of a world-class striker, Mourinho’s side have played conservatively.

Chelsea have parked the bus, they have been defensive and ‘anti-football’ as some might call it but, more than this, they have been afraid, they have been inhibited, and they have played without risk. In that sense, you might say that Mourinho’s Chelsea have lacked balls this season.

However, that has not been the case previously at Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto – the key difference this season is that the Special One does not possess a special striker up front and that, necessarily, implies he doesn’t have the means to be brave tactically.

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