Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has come under some harsh criticisms because of the way his team have played recently.
The Blues were accused of playing ‘boring football’ and of ‘parking the bus’ against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie last week and then again against Liverpool last Sunday.
On both occasions Chelsea got favourable results: a 0-0 draw in the Spanish capital saw them get an advantage against Atletico and a 2-0 win at Anfield saw the London outfit get back into the Premier League title race.
However, Chelsea were not always playing such conservative football. At the start of the season, with Eden Hazard and Oscar in full flow, the 2012 European champions were indeed a joy to watch (at least on occasions), and there was a suggestion that on his second ‘homecoming’ Mourinho was going to reinvent himself as a manager who wins by playing attractive football.
Yet, towards the business end of the season, Mourinho has gone back to his old self and set up his team in a way so as not to concede and then hit the opposition on the counter. The 51-year-old has now defended his decision to switch to this style of approach and has admitted that he did so to preserve his team’s status as a top-four Premier League club.
‘At a certain moment of the season I made the decision to stop our evolution in style and philosophy of play and go the only way, with this team and these players, we could get results’, The Mirror quotes him as saying. ‘I felt we had no conditions to go as far as we did in the Champions League or in the Premier League if we didn’t transform our style of play.
‘There came a moment when I felt it was dangerous and that there was a big risk that we could be out of the top four. If we hadn’t gone for a bit more stability and development of a certain philosophy, it was a big risk. So from that point the team became more strategical and less intuitive, because we went for results’.
Mourinho did what appeared to be the most pragmatic to him: play to his team’s strengths. There have been suggestions that this Chelsea team is made to play on the counter-attack, especially as they do not a top-class striker (or at least not one who is on form).
Then again, Mourinho also made Real Madrid one of the most fearsome counter-attacking teams in Europe during his three years in Spain. And there can be no excuses about Los Blancos lacking world-class attacking talent: Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil (now at Arsenal), Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria all formed part of an attacking lineup that would strike fear into the heart of any opposition.
Which leads us to one conclusion: Mourinho is a defensive-minded coach and he will always go back to doing what he knows best.