Mourinho's Pragmatic Approach Earns Chelsea More Than a Point Against Arsenal

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013


There have been times this season when Jose Mourinho has spoken of his Chelsea team being one of youthful exuberance—one lacking maturity that only experience will bring.

They may not have come away from Emirates Stadium with a victory, but Chelsea's goalless draw against Arsenal on Monday evening had a hint of his side coming of age.

"It was a tactical match," reflected Mourinho on Sky Sports. "It was a match that Arsenal wants to win, but not lose and Chelsea wants to win and not lose."

In the end, though, it was Chelsea coming away happiest and feeling all the more positive with how things developed.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23:  Mikel Arteta of Arsenal marshalls Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Ima
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It's been quite the contrary on their travels recently, with the Blues shipping eight goals in three away games. Facing the Gunners, however, they were organized, solid and controlled the threat of their opponents, a fact the manager was eager to point out.

"We had the game completely in control," he continued, before explaining the reasons behind his tactical switch in a bid to tighten things up defensively.

"I want Chelsea to go in another direction. That’s our plan, it's what we want for the future. I’m not building the team for a season. I’m building it for a long period."

"There are some matches where I have to go one step back and play for a result and sometimes play with a different philosophy. It was important for us not to lose."

Had Chelsea continued as they have thus far in December, their predicament would possibly look far less healthy.

The Blues have been too eager on the road, lacking organization in the back line and have been found out against the type of opposition who shouldn't be causing them problems, leaking goals in the process.

On the back of their draw against Arsenal, Mourinho's team sits just two points behind league leaders Liverpool. They would have preferred a win, yet in pursuit, their recent form meant such gung-ho tactics were not valid.

This was a performance about consolidation.

Defeat would have seen Chelsea slip five points behind Arsenal, who themselves would have returned to the top, with a major psychological advantage coming on the back of Arsene Wenger's first victory against Mourinho.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Mesut Oezil of Arsenal and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Bot
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

What the Chelsea manager did at the Emirates was simple—he played for a result, and in so doing has strengthened his club's position in the title race, despite being one league place worse off than they had been at the beginning of the weekend's action.

Such pragmatism speaks volumes for Mourinho's nous and experience. Before the year is out, Chelsea have two vital matches at home to Swansea City and Liverpool. Win them and, as things stands, they could be at the very top of the pile.

We hear it said so often, it's meaning almost becomes irrelevant. League titles are not won on Christmas, despite the past four teams who have led the way on Dec. 25 all ending up victorious in their pursuit of silverware. They are lost, however.

Now's not the time to be chasing results, lacking discipline and losing ground to those teams around you. It's about maintaining the pace—which Chelsea's draw ensures they are.

Let's not fool ourselves here, though. As much as Mourinho and his players will be happy to have not lost to Arsenal, they'll be equally disappointed to have not left North London with a victory.

It took the Gunners the best part of 89 minutes to test Petr Cech in goal, while Chelsea themselves finished the game with 13 shots on goal, almost double that of the home team's seven.

With a little more killer instinct, it may well have been a different story.

"Arsenal couldn’t penetrate, but we were not aggressive enough to score a goal," Mourinho concluded.

A lack of goals from his strikers remains a concern, although on this evidence, Chelsea look to be getting its title push back on the right track.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes.