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Chelsea are boring but they have no duty to entertain

As Chelsea waiting on the sidelines to be declared Premier League champions, does it matter that some think they're boring?

Published: Updated:

Jose Mourinho had a retort at the ready. His Chelsea side had just shuffled a little closer to the Premier League title with a goalless draw against Arsenal, and yet there was little fanfare for the champions-elect. Instead the Gunners support chanted ‘boring, boring Chelsea’ as the Blues hustled and harried their way to a valuable point. Mourinho’s comeback was snappier than his team’s.

“I think boring is 10 years without a title, that’s boring,” sneered the Blues boss, angling a barb at Arsene Wenger - a man Mourinho once labelled “a specialist in failure.” “If you support a club and you wait, wait, wait for so many years without a Premier League title, then that’s boring.”

Such snide comments give an insight into how Mourinho views football - as a competitive conquest. As European football’s most successful coach over the past decade, Mourinho’s record is distinguished in quantitative results rather than qualitative. For the Portuguese it’s about the wins, not the method of securing them.

Mourinho is football’s great pragmatist. He makes the most of what he has, and at Chelsea he has a side whose attacking flair has diminished as the season has progressed. It should come as no surprise then that Mourinho has reverted back to default in order to scrum his team over the line.

It’s true - Chelsea are a boring team to watch, at least since the turn of the year. As a side they don’t exactly lend themselves to the commemorative DVD that will accompany this season’s title success. But they have no duty to entertain

Graham Ruthven

However, it’s worth recalling the swagger and manner with which Chelsea went 22 games unbeaten early on in the season. Nobody called the Blues boring when they struck 15 goals in their opening four Premier League games, surging to the top of the table with Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa leading an uncharacteristically dynamic Chelsea frontline.

Yet Chelsea have failed to win a league game by more than one goal since the 5-0 thumping of Swansea City back in January. Persistent injuries have stemmed Costa’s goal return over the past few months, with Fabregas suffering a dip in form. It has largely been up to Hazard to carry the Blues towards the title - with Mourinho growing more conservative with every passing match.

'Pantomime villain'

It’s true - Chelsea are a boring team to watch, at least since the turn of the year. As a side they don’t exactly lend themselves to the commemorative DVD that will accompany this season’s title success. But they have no duty to entertain. Why should Mourinho be concerned with what Arsenal fans - or fans of any other Premier League club, besides his own - think?

Fundamentally speaking, what can be judged as boring anyway? In the Premier League’s grand narrative Chelsea are anything but boring. They are the league’s primary protagonists, the pantomime villain, and an important part of English football’s £5.14 billion television product.

As was underlined at the Emirates on Sunday, Chelsea’s role in the Premier League cast engages stadiums and audiences. Football has become an entertainment industry over time, and Mourinho - whether it is glaringly apparent or not - has significant worth in that.

Besides, Chelsea weren’t quite as one-dimensional as Arsenal’s support made out on Sunday. Mourinho was widely mocked for his insistence that his side had played for a win at the Emirates, given their ultra-conservative approach. While the Portuguese might have over embellished the true objective of his strategy against Arsenal, he wasn’t necessarily lying.

'Even Mourinho has people to please'

Chelsea played a similar way against Manchester United the week before, sitting deep and soaking up opposition pressure before breaking on the counter-attack. The strategy worked perfectly, with Eden Hazard scoring the game’s only goal to secure three precious points.

What can be judged as boring anyway? In the Premier League’s grand narrative Chelsea are anything but boring. They are the league’s primary protagonists

Graham Ruthven

But against Arsenal the Blues’ counter-attack didn’t quite operate with the same efficiency. It’s not so much that Chelsea played for a draw against Arsenal, but for a win - and a draw if that couldn’t be achieved. By playing in such a way Mourinho gives his team a failsafe.

However, there is one spectator who Mourinho must satisfy. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has long desired a more entertaining style of football at Stamford Bridge, with some even suggesting that Pep Guardiola - Mourinho’s great adversary - was earmarked to take charge of the club two years ago. Many believe Mourinho was the Russian oligarch’s second choice.

“[Abramovic] is very happy,” Mourinho asserted after the draw at Arsenal. “I saw him hugging the players in the dressing room after the game, and yes I think he’s happy and I think every Chelsea fan is happy if we win the title. If we do, we will have had a fantastic Premier League season.”

Indeed, if the owner is satisfied then Mourinho can do what he likes - because when he does what he likes he tends to come out on top, whether by entertaining or not. As long as Abramovich didn’t join in with the ‘boring, boring Chelsea’ chants.