Date: 10th May 2018 at 10:42am
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Catching the bus as opponents try to park the bus!

It can be one of the most boring and frustrating games to watch; the one where one team wants to win and the other team doesn’t want to lose.

Playing for a draw from the start of a football game is an attitude that has developed more and more in recent years. It’s a great strategy for teams lacking the ability to compete with more skilful opponents because, as I’ve said before, it often works.

Tottenham supporters are well aware of how difficult it is to break some teams down because we’ve seen it happening on the park. We tend to focus on our own ‘poor’ results and blame our team for not winning rather than giving credit to the opponents for their successful rearguard action. It does make you wonder about the understanding some supporters have of modern day football and who fail to think beyond the desire to win.

It’s not just Spurs that ‘sometimes’ fall victims to this strategy. All of the top clubs experience how difficult it is to overcome ‘bus-parkers’ during the course of the season. To a lesser extent this season even City players have been stopped in their tracks by it.

Every top six team has played games where they have had 20+ more shots on goal than their opponents whilst enjoying 70% retention of the ball only to end up with a point, or nothing at all.

Given that Spurs will finish the season above Chelsea, Arsenal, possibly Liverpool, and not far behind United, it could even be argued that we handle the problem better than most …. even though it does not seem that way!

The Premier League boasts some of the most knowledgeable and experienced managers in the game and yet, more often than they perhaps should, they all fall victims to this strategy. This illustrates how successful it can be to implement and how hard it can be to overcome.

As supporters, it’s easy for us to say our team should have done this or should have done that. But they are just meaningless words. It’s simply not that easy out there on the pitch, as anyone who has played the game is aware.

A packed penalty area makes it extremely difficult for the attacking team to find that one telling through pass; it stops players with dribbling ability from weaving his way through on goal, and it restricts them to taking shots from distance. Desperately, and repeatedly, crossing the ball into a packed goalmouth can also fail to achieve the desired result because as far as the defence is concerned, anywhere will do.

The hardest thing for the attacking team to do is to remain patient because if they don’t, there is a great danger of losing a game that, if there was any justice in football, should never be lost. And to the supporters this ‘patient’ approach can be viewed as slow, boring, and frustrating football.

As frustrating as it can be to watch, ‘bus-parking’ as a viable game-plan, is a very interesting part of today’s football world and is here for the duration.


40 Replies to “Spurs Now Face What All Top Teams Encounter, Opponents Parking The Bus”

  • Spot on geofspurs, very good article, you said it all, though I think you forgot to note that MU are the tops when it comes to bus parking, haha, and run by a top boss, Moaninio. COYS

  • While Wenger used to moan about teams not playing in a way that suited Arsenal every manager has to make the best of what he has. If his players are outclassed that often means a defensive game, its the stronger team’s job to break them down. If they can’t maybe they aren’t as good as they think they are. A team can be very dangerous if they can not only defend well but counter attack as well. We saw it from Leicester when they won the title, we saw it from Juventus this season when they basically beat us at Wembley in 5 minutes. The one problem with this kind of tactic is once you go a goal behind you have to change the way you play. its down to us to find a way to break these sides down, so far we are a work in progress.

  • Geof… well put article. The answer is to make the break though by wide players crossing, AMF / ST making runs, and accurate / swift ball passing and movement on counter attacks… I know we all say that, but spurs players should watch the City games to see how it is done…

  • I believe it was Mourinho who first coined the term, parking the bus. It was after a frustrating 0-0 draw against… Tottenham Hotspur!

    Yes, the Spurs’ considerable influence on the ‘beautiful’ game in all it’s wonderful forms, still reigns supreme. Still inspiring many top coaches and managers to this very day.

    We taught Jose everything he knows! Well, Jacques Santini did, it would seem. (Whatever happened to him?)

  • I wouldn’t say it is playing for a draw, I’d say it’s more like a case of, we know we can’t outplay them, we also know that if we try and play an open game they will slaughter us, BUT we do know that they are very prone to playing high and getting caught out on the break, we also know that they find it almost impossible to break down a well organised and packed defence/
    So we park the bus and hit them with long balls over the top, getting goals by the smash and grab method.
    I also say all this about Poch leaving is just so much BS, if he were going why would we still be buying players that HE wants, wouldn’t we hold up, wait for the new gaffer to come in and get the players he would want.
    Just more paper news to stir it up for us again.

  • There will always be times when a team can’t be broken down. Some days, good defending and bad luck come together and the better team doesn’t win. Sometimes the officials make a difference. Sometimes shots will hit the woodwork or be blocked by another player. Sometimes the football gods play for the other side. Sometimes a Keeper will make a save he has no right to make.

    There is no way to legislate against it. It’s the nature of the game. It would be naive to discount the luck factor. As far as Spurs are concerned, we have been as successful as most teams in breaking down defenses, in my opinion. The league table agrees with this. Across the course of the season most things even out.

  • Goalkeepers having wonder games against us and others of course, how many times has that happened?

    Getting in behind packed defences, not easy, you cannot always say fast wide men beating the Fb and crossing the ball, hold on the FB is only a yard or so off the line, so no room, packed/bus parking defences sit so deep. Check how many off-sides there are, not many I can tell you.

    To me you have to have possession/keep the ball, passing sideways/back etc, so basically boring the opposition stiff and try/hope to draw them out, then quick excellent passes, hey presto goals, but how often does this happen, todays bus parker’s are resolute/learned not to fall for coming out. As has already been said you have to score early/quickly so that changes the whole complexity of the game and their plan.

    We have beaten a fair few of the bus parker’s this season the position we are about to finish in proves that.

    To be honest, a couple of games we lost, that a few keep droning on about, Man U & Juve, watch them again it was basically our own fault v Juve, mistakes/errors by players ie Verts, one example, v Man U again player error, this all contributes to having the luck on the day, do not forget the strong arm tactics, we fell for it, esp by Juve, Man U should have been down to 10 men in 27 mins, did not happen, Dier hits post all contribute to defeats. Nothing can be done about this, its football, to be honest I could drone on and on with this regard.

    Any way I have said before, I think/know we have had a great season considering, loads of important player injuries and I will keep saying it 38 lge + cup matches ALL! away from home. COYS

  • It’s hard to see where spurs could upgrade playing the 4231 the MP way. Upgrading the CB’, FB’s or Dier (Mp Fav) is not going to take spurs to the next Level. Dembele might be sold, however, it will be hard to find a replacement that will take spurs to the next level. Ali, CE, and Son. Maybe an upgrade on son, however, that won’t be cheap and will that take spurs to the next level? i am not sure as son on his day is as good as any wide attacker. Kane can’t be upgraded. If Dembele leaves spurs need to find a very good replacement. Spurs need to buy a sallah type player if they want to go up a level. It would be better if MP played 433 like all the best teams, however, Mp wants to do it his way.

  • One of the key ingredients in trying to break down packed defences is pace, both pace across the ground by individual players, and a slick quick pacy style of play a la Man City, sometimes their speed of movement both of players and the ball is mind blowing, you have to be very good, or very lucky to “park the bus” against that, hence the number of games they have won, points they have accrued, and the number of goals they score. We on the other hand lack pace, we sold Walker, one of if not the quickest player in the PL, we bought but seem reluctant to play Moura and this leaves us a very pedestrian team. As good as Kane, Ali, Son, and Eriksen are they all lack real pace, this is also the case right through the team. We lack pace in player movement into space or running at defenders, and we also lack the slick, snappy, quick ball movement that confuses and out wits those trying to park the bus. To progress further we need to introduce pace into the team and our style of play. Our across the pitch slow methodical approach is easier to defend hence our possession and shots figures are often not converted into goals and points.

  • Looking at a comparison between last season and this it would appear that statistically we have regressed. Last season we P38 W26 D8 L4 to gain 86 points. This season so far we have P37 W22 D8 L7 to get so far 74 points. This means the best we can do is 77 points or 9 points adrift of last year. Does this means other have progressed whilst we have stood still or regressed.

  • Totally agree with Frank. Pace and a willingness to take on players is the key to breaking through a packed defence, particularly in the last half an hour or so. Man City’s Sane and Sterling are the best examples of this. Which makes me all the more frustrated with Poch’s aversion to outright wingers, which used to be the trademark of the successful Spurs teams of old.. To my mind his treatment of Lucas Moura since he signed for us has been almost an insult to a player with experience at the highest level. To not play him at some point in In the vital Newcastle game , a game that was crying out for his zippy talents, must have been a severe blow to his morale. It certainly was to mine as a life-long supporter of the Lilywhites.

  • Another advantage of a quick player/s is that they can attack the box at pace looking for an outstretched leg or poor tackle, result more penalty kicks.

  • All managers and coaches do it their own way palmover…

    You say all the best teams play in a 433 formation. This is not strictly so.

    All the best teams ebb and flow with tactics and formations. And with their frequent changes in managers it very often means a new man bringing their own style and version of the game to the table.

    Formations are also victims of fashion too. They come and go. And, they evolve…

    And it’s about how so many, top managers/coaches frequently change and adapt the use of different formations.

    Lets take Guardiola for example:

    He has been known in the past to constantly be changing formations and, throughout the course of a season has been known to experiment in many new and surprising ways. It could be down to a slip off in his teams form, or to suit the opponent and how they set up or, because a key player is out and subtle adjustments may need to be made.

    He may often use a starting formation of 433 on paper but in play, it is fluid, flexible and changeable. I’ve watched City have as many as 9 behind the ball when defending and yet they are not seen as a defensive team at all.

    Does Klopps version of a 433 work in the same way as Pep’s? No, is the simple answer to that and yet his tactics can be just as flexible. However, defensively he has yet to get it to work as it should do. Look at City again. Not only have they scored over a hundred PL goals this season but they also have the best defensive record… Klopp is still working on that with Liverpool.

    I’ve even seen Klopp play with that old English favourite, 442. In the past couple of seasons. And, even Barca and Real have recently utilised their own versions of the 442. Which in itself has various versions and ways in which to be flexible within it. Hey, your lads in the ‘Lester’ team that you can’t stop mentioning, well they won the PL mostly playing with a good old fashioned (English style) 442…

    Fergusson won how many trophies playing with a 442?

    This is the modern game of football. It moves this way and that way. Forwards, sideways, backwards.
    But, it never stands still…

    What’s next? That old England favourite from the 1800’s? The 1-2-7 formation!

    Its time for a comeback. And, our Poch could be the man to make it work.

    Watch this space….

    But do try to keep onside, dear boy.

  • play with 5 goalscorers. Spurs play with 4. In theory spurs should score less and concede less. However, cities style of play will win more games over a season. Agree with stan on the wide attackers all the best teams have two. Robin/ribbery. Bale/ronaldo. Mane/salah. Sterling/Sane. Hazzard/willian.

  • May be we need to play that way in some games against top teams and grind out a result. It’s not easy breaking teams down but it’s not easy playing defensively either keeping concentration.

  • palmover, you mention 3 EPL teams and 2 of them are behind us in the league, so not very good examples. And Real Madrid don’t play Ronaldo and Bale on the wings. Ronaldo is very central these days, might as well be a striker and Bale barely plays at all. They do often play Arsenio and Isco in those positions, although not as “wingers”.

  • Wide attackers? All the best teams have two… Do they? I don’t see all those guys you mentioned hugging any touchlines, if that’s what you mean.

    Can you please explain what you mean exactly by wide attackers palmover. And why Spurs are so inferior for not using them and, (to you), not one of the ‘best’ teams?

    I know full well that you will ignore me, because you always do…

    So, another question for you, if you are not too cowardice to answer… Why do you choose to ignore me?

    Second thoughts. No need to answer that. As an honest answer from you might just get you banned…

    And, we wouldn’t want that…

  • Personal stuff apart, I’ll tell you what I mean by wide attackers HT. Players who use their pace in the wider spaces to get down to the by-line and cut the ball back but who can also take defenders on wherever to make things happen in and around the box.

    Our wing backs can do the former but after Walker’s departure and Rose’s absence due to injury this has been very much the exception rather than the rule and when the cutbacks come to nothing we are usually left exposed in our own wider spaces.

    In his very limited appearances Lucas has shown he can he can do both the former and the latter which also leaves the backs to do a proper defending job. Why Poch does not give him a proper chance to display his talents is completely beyond me.

  • Pace, a good first touch, good passing and scoring ability are all good traits to possess when breaking down a packed defence. Lennon had all of the above, minus the scoring. VDV had all of the above, minus the pace. Son has most, but certainly not the first touch. Basically its hard to find these type of players, (unless you strike gold or pay ridiculous sums of money) so the next best option is to build a team that compliment each other. I do agree with Walker gone, and Rose constantly injured, we’ve lacked the pace element at times this season. vs WBA, Trippier spent so much time as a right winger, I would have been happy to see him replaced by Moura.

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