It was Jose Mourinho who brought the term ‘parking the bus’ to English football in 2004 – and the Chelsea manager took it a step further by lining up a whole fleet with their handbrakes on in their 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
In a week in which he has reverted to type by moaning about ‘campaigns’ and boycotting the media, this was a classic performance from ‘The Special One’ as he stunk out west London with a game that failed to live up to its hype as the biggest of the season.
The draw suits Mourinho and Chelsea, of course, as it keeps them five-points clear of second-placed City with 15 games to play, but it was exactly the type of turgid performance that caused a divide between the Portuguese and Roman Abramovich during his first spell in charge.
His hand may have been forced by Diego Costa’s suspension and the hamstring injury that ruled out Cesc Fabregas, but the Portuguese got exactly what he came for.
The Blues had only three shots in the whole match and, astonishingly, none in the whole of the second-half. It is the lowest figure they have recorded in the Premier League since 2003/04 and the fewest by a home team in a match this season.
It almost worked out even better for the hosts. Only a rare mistake by Thibaut Courtois – probably his first in Chelsea colours – allowed City to score as David Silva cancelled out Loic Remy’s strike.
Those were the only two chances of note in a game that was failed to justify the hype, the latest in a series of bland encounters between these two modern titans of the English game.
In the final 10 minutes, the chant of ‘boring, boring Chelsea’ rang from the 3,000 City fans in the away end as they watched their side press forward but fail to find a way past the home side’s backline.
The sight of Gary Cahill patrolling in front of Chelsea’s back four as a late substitute was the confirmation – if any were needed by then – that Mourinho’s gameplan all along was to walk away with a draw.
The wide men, Eden Hazard and Willian, were constantly urged to get behind the ball as Mourinho shouted instructions in his baggy tracksuit on the touchline.
Hazard, so mesmerizing at times this season, provided a wonderful cushioned volley to set up Remy’s goal but otherwise made no impact as he was strangled of service and support by Mourinho’s tactics.
Given the former Real Madrid boss has seen Chelsea concede five to Tottenham and four to Bradford this season – plus the exertions of their midweek fixture with Liverpool which went to extra-time – it made sense.
The Blues have played some sparkling football this season but, at times, Mourinho’s cautious instincts have crept through. It happened when he tried and failed to defend one-goal leads away at City and Manchester United – and it certainly happened today.
But now Chelsea can head into a run of games against Aston Villa, Everton, Burnley, Leicester and West Ham knowing they are edging towards the title.
It’s theirs to lose and they are in the perfect position.
Mourinho is the ultimate winner, he’s shown it before. He will do whatever it takes, even if it means parking the bus.
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