So uninspiring was Chelsea’s performance against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon earlier this week that even Coral, the Blues’ official betting partner, mocked up an image of the club’s badge with a bus where the lion should be.
“Chelsea have changed their badge after last night’s game,” joked the betting company who, like the rest of us, were left wondering why Jose Mourinho had resorted to his trusted ‘parking the bus’ tactics against a top European team when he had attack-minded players at his disposal capable of producing a far more eye-catching performance. Braver tactics may have even won his side the match.
Chelsea didn’t need to play that defensively in the Spanish capital. Even if Eden Hazard, the team’s most decisive player, was out through injury, the Portuguese coach still had the likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle and Oscar to call upon.
Two of those three star names started on the bench, while Mourinho’s chosen players defended resolutely and picked up a 0-0 draw after a 90-minute snooze-fest. Some proclaimed it to be another tactical masterclass from Mourinho when, in truth, it was anything but.
The fact is that, as well as needing to attempt to score themselves at Stamford Bridge next week, an away goal for Atletico could potentially prove catastrophic. Chelsea didn’t remotely look like scoring on Tuesday, but Diego Simeone’s side will be far more adventurous in west London, and could subsequently reap the rewards of a place in the Champions League final.
The main reason Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich got rid of Mourinho in the first place, back in 2007, was because of his negative tactics. Some would even call them downright boring. “But he’s a trophy-winning machine,” was the argument for rehiring him last summer. Those who stated that, of course, had a point.
However, there’s a good chance that Mourinho won’t win a trophy this season. He also failed to win a trophy with Real Madrid in his final campaign at the Bernabeu.
Considering the players he’s coached over the past two seasons - Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Hazard and Oscar to name but four - no silverware to show for either campaign would be an achievement in itself. Mourinho claimed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was a “specialist in failure” earlier this year - but those comments could come back to haunt him in a few weeks’ time.
Chelsea supporters pay an awful lot of money for their season tickets - and, as well as challenging for silverware, they want to see their team playing an attractive brand of football. Where’s the fun in winning football matches if you’re not doing it in style?
You can count the number of thrilling Chelsea performances from over the course of this season on the fingers of one hand. The 6-0 victory over Arsenal has undoubtedly been the highlight, but then they were playing against 10 men for 75 minutes of that match.
Mourinho parked the bus against Arsenal back in December and did the same against Manchester City two months later. Mourinho even parked the bus up at Old Trafford in August against David Moyes’ Manchester United, who went on to lose to West Brom, Everton, Newcastle and couldn’t even beat Fulham on home soil.
As well as needing to win silverware, Mourinho needs to make Chelsea more entertaining. Fans will switch off otherwise - as will, not for the first time, Roman Abramovich.