On Barcelona Losing and Bus Parking

So I’m not going to go through and rank the players or recap the match. I might do that later, but I’m not going to now.

What I’m going to do is say why I’m not willing to give Milan the praise a lot of other people are throwing their way.

I can give credit to teams that beat Barcelona. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I gave credit to Sociedad for their comeback last month. They deserved to win. I gave credit to Celtic, because they had a strategy and executed it cleanly and perfectly on a special night against a much more accomplished team. I even gave Real Madrid credit and wasn’t upset when they won the Spanish Super Cup, because I felt that in the second leg, Barcelona were just bad.

I can take a step back and acknowledge when the other team did well, even when the other team are my team’s biggest rivals.

But there are also instances where I don’t give credit to the other team. Chelsea are one instance. Milan tonight are now another.

Here’s the crux of the problem for me: my expectations of a team change depending on who the team is. For a team like Celtic, I look at a parked bus and say, “You know what? That makes sense. They’re doing what they have to do against a much more accomplished team, and they did it cleanly. They deserve credit for that.”

But for teams like Chelsea, or Milan – top teams in the four best leagues in the world who qualify for the Champions League year after year – the standards are higher. Some teams play more offensively, and some play more defensively – I prefer to watch teams that press, overall, but there’s nothing wrong with playing a more defensive game. It’s a legitimate approach that I respect.

However, there’s a difference between a strong defense and bus parking, and bus parking should be beneath teams that are ranked among the top 15 in Europe. Parking the bus doesn’t impress me when you’re one of the best teams in Europe. When you’re one of the best teams in Europe, you shouldn’t have to resort to something so unimaginative. Milan have a lot of players who are skilled at what they do. They have players who were in the final of the Euro last summer, and who got there playing attractive football. (Surprisingly, for Italy, but it happened.) For a team like that to park the bus…

I’m not going to heap praise on them. I’m not going to call them brave. And I’m certainly not going to say that they should be admired.

That said, Barcelona were god awful tonight, and probably didn’t really deserve to win. I just don’t think Milan deserves any praise for how they won.


26 responses to “On Barcelona Losing and Bus Parking

  1. Maybe if you took of your Custom-made Barcelona shades you would see how good Milan were on the night. For starters, parking the bus, Defensive play and Counter play, are three completely different strategies. Madrid played Counter, Chelsea parked the bus, and Milan played something Hybrid between Defensive and Counter. They relied on Sharaawy’s explosiveness and Boateng’s willingness to stay back. Unlike Chelsea, Milan kept possession whenever they regained it and tried to go forward. It’s no news Barcelona is extremely vulnerable on the counter, Milan made the most of their chances while Barcelona kept making useless passes in the middle. Their yearn to score in the last minutes made them even more vulnerable allowing time and space for Niang and Sharaawy. In the second leg, Allegri got it all wrong. He played a 4-3-3 with Boateng up front. Playing against Barcelona with a loose midfield is suicidal, and considering the fact that Messi was not playing his traditional faux 9 role it made things a lot more complicated. Villa got most of the CBs’ attention allowing space for Messi. Allegri should’ve played a 4-5-1, compact 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1anything with a compact midfield. Don’t be too quick to translate your frustration into words because even if they Parked the bus(which they didn’t), it’s still a valid tactic and they pulled it off in grand style. According to your B/R profile you’re a USWNT, Barcelona fan, so i take it You don’t know what it’s like playing with <40% ball possession. Tip for you: It's not always Parking the Bus when a team with less ball possession wins.

    • Yes, most of my favorite teams do tend to play a possession-based style of football, with the possible exception of Valencia. However, I’m not sure why that means I don’t know what it’s like playing with <40% possession – I do watch a lot of football in general, and I've even witnessed many games where my favorite teams didn't have majority possession. I'm also quite fond of Manchester United, who frequently don't have majority possession, so I'm not really sure how I'm incapable of understanding how teams play without the majority of possession.

      As I said in the post: I personally don't love to watch defensive play, but it's a valid strategy that I can respect. I do not see bus parking as valid for top-15 teams; it's crass, a waste of talent, and creates ugly, boring games. I maintain that Milan parked the bus. That's not always true when teams have less possession – I didn't accuse Madrid of parking the bus, because they didn't – but it was true here, and I dislike it as a style and see it as cowardly and ugly.

      You're right: there is a difference between bus-parking, defensive play, and counter-attacking football. I can respect the latter two, even when the team beats one of my teams doing it, and even when a team I like employs the strategy. I rarely respect the former. It's a fundamental difference of opinion, and just as I suspect no one could ever convince you that it's not a valid tactic, nobody will ever convince me that it is one, at least not for strong teams. I suspect you're probably an EPL or Serie A fan, not a La Liga fan; that tends to be where the divide comes from.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      • Fair enough. I guess we born in different weathers then. I’m a huge La Liga fan! Always have been. I was a Barcelona fan back in the days, with Kluivert and co. Not so much nowadays. I agree, Parking the Bus creates boring ugly games, but you have to look at it from both angles. As a non-Barcelona fan, watching their games especially in la liga is a pain in the ass. They keep the ball way to much and when they’re not putting it in the back of the net, they make the games boring. I’d much rather watch Madrid because they lose the ball way more often hehe :).


    • Interesting! Most La Liga fans I know prefer possession-based football. I do agree, though, that possession without teeth is boring, and Barcelona have been quite guilty of that lately (as have Arsenal, heroics against Bayern Munich notwithstanding). I don’t care if they have 80% possession if they’re not doing something with it.

      Thank goodness for Swansea, who haven’t stopped being dynamic and entertaining once this season.

    • Depending on what your definition of the ill-defined term “parking the bus” is, your opinion will vary. But for me, a 4 – 4 back line (8 or more) is parking the bus and AC Milan implemented this for at least a solid half of the first leg match. I agree that their strategy was a type of hybrid, but they clearly had a 4 – 4 back line more than once during the match.

      You want to see absolute GENIUS defensive play look at how Mou organized his defense for the 3 Clasicos we saw early this year… He orchestrated defensive triangles around Barca’s customary triangle passes instead of man to man marking, which effectively cut Barca off on every other pass.

      That’s the beautiful game.

      • They played brilliantly today by allowing Alves to play higher up the entire time. If you noticed, he hardly got a cross off the entire match because he was being blocked so much. His cross is so great that he drew defenders from the middle the full 90. I’ve thought for a while now that a true back 3 (who stay back!) would be more effective than a false back 4 (when their 2 outside defenders are farther up the pitch than anyone else most of the time). Great tactics and heartfelt performances.
        Truly inspired. Also, I hope this puts Villa back in the starting XI and maybe he stays.


  2. 2 – 0 at the half?! Yes please… No matter what happens, I think Messi answered a few questions tonight.

    Second half may give me a heart attack.

    • I know what you mean… I think I’ll be in tears by the end of the game no matter what happens, because there’s just so much emotion and I can’t get it out with all the screaming.

      • To the tune of the crowds “Mess-i! Mess-i!” I shout, “Vill-a! Vill-a!”

        Barca’s apology for their performance on my birthday is accepted. 😛

  3. The red card may have been extreme, but Man U could have had their full starting XI PLUS their entire bench on the pitch and there would still have been no stopping that superb strike from Modric.

    I predicted a 2 – 1 win for Madrid and I think it was the just result. Apologies to Van Persie.

  4. I don’t think Milan should be praised but the current status of the team is not what it was last season… They played a zonal marking last CL if I remember but they had players like Nesta, Mexes, Seedorf, T.Silva, Zambrotta,Mark van Bommel on the defense who could play zonal game pretty well… Also they had Zlatan n Pato upfront to compliment that defense…

    But after the departure/ retirement of their star players their team has been struggling and IMO they had this strategy placed seeing the difference in strength if they had gone for a regular play… Also they didn’t park the bus for the entire 90… AFAIK they parked the bus for 57′ and when they got the goal they started playing openly…

    For me it was a good strategy by Milan and they capitalized on it… Honestly Barca aren’t learning from their mistakes… I know their philosophy is to pass and move but when the opposition is parking and they can’t break through them, there is no other strategy that they can play to outdo the opponent… For me it was Barca that played bad and it is Barca that needs to learn and implement a different strategy for these kind of situations…

    • Yeah, I definitely agree that Barcelona played poorly and didn’t really deserve to win, and Milan certainly executed a strategy well. I would disagree that they spent the majority of the second half not parking the bus, though – that definitely wasn’t open play. They just had a few more counters because Barcelona got sloppy.

      I find it really frustrating because under Tito, they really were starting to be a bit more pragmatic. They weren’t getting rid of their philosophy, but they were just that little bit more direct and a little more flexible, and that brought them victories that they wouldn’t have managed last year.

      Since Tito went to New York, though, I feel like they’ve lost that creativity. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.

      • I guess it just implies that not all can coach Barca the way Pep did and Tito was doing till the time he did… Since he is going to be in NY till March end I just hope for a better result in the 2 games with RMad n Milan….
        And I do believe when Tito comes back in he will straighten this mess up… I also do hope that he will address the teams defensive frailties and not do some stupid buys in the summer…

  5. Again Villa proves he’s valuable, and again Sanchez proves he’s a liability.

    Hopefully two clasicos in a row will help wash off the shame of the 1st leg Milan match. A Villa, Messi, Tello front is looking pretty solid/creative.

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