It is ironic that the man who came up with this brilliant and much popularized metaphor, José Mourinho, is the same who later perfected the bus against his arch nemesis, our beloved Futbol Club Barcelona, when Internazionale (in)famously held us to a 1-0 “win” in the Camp Nou. True enough, with a bit of help from volcanoes and referees, anything is possible.
Xavi Hernandez calls it “anti-football”, and at the mere mention of the tactic he pulls the face of a baby that has just been given to taste his first lemon. Just as culés the world over cross their arms in indignation whenever we feel that teams hang in the wrong half off the football pitch, haters on internet message boards gleefully type yay every time we get hit by a cowardly counter attack.
Foul play? When the salary of any of our bench players is bigger than the budget of the entire team we are facing, who are we to judge? One could certainly make the argument that a club with over a hundred million of euros of players in their squad should be embarassed to be afraid to venture out of their own penalty area (cough *Chelsea* cough) but hey, all is fair in love, war and football.
All in all, seeing us struggle against an opponent that persistently dedicates nine to ten of its field players to defense is an all too common sight. Difficult enough when a mid-table team employs said tactic, up against contenders that send their well-coached multi-million dollar squads out to plug holes, shut openings and close spaces, creating quality chances can sometimes feel impossible.
Case in point, the second leg of the Supercup against Atletico Madrid, who couldn’t have defended us better if they had stuffed the goal with matresses:
We did not create a single chance that led to a shot on goal. Despite a midfield that is the envy of Europe and that moves the ball around fast to try to get it to world class forwards Alexis, Neymar and Messi, we cannot get a shot at goal. What is more, with so many players commited to the attack, every mistake can lead to an even more dangerous counter attack.
Now, the closest we got to scoring, heck, shooting even, were in the these three first half moments shown in the next video:
Busquets absolutely rifles a pass through to Messi, who takes a mili-second too long and lets a defender get a leg in. Jordi Alba goes deep and crosses a perfect ball to Lexus, who misses completely*, and finally Cesc also times a deep run to create all kinds of trouble in the box when he cuts it back to Xavi.
What it shows us is this: movement between the last lines is essential, especially runs that invite through balls.
To paraphrase Gerardo Martino:
“To break down those defenses, the passes have to be perfect.”
“We have trouble making passes in the last twenty meters. I will focus on movements in that area.”
Hopefully we will. The big teams of Europe all know how to play us. Last season we had major difficulties in creating scoring opportunities against Milan, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico and Real M*drid. If we are to beat those teams this year, we need to find a way around the bus.