Arsenal’s win over Bayern: Parking the bus or counter-attacking strategy?

After Arsenal’s big win over Bayern Munich, multiple conversations have been predictably generated. One of those, is a debate over how Arsenal achieved their win: was it a counter attacking strategy or defensive ‘parking the bus’ strategy?

First, let’s attempt to understand a few things: Even teams who park the bus seek to break on the counter. Counter-attacking teams play 10 men behind the ball at different times. One method is not a stark contrast of the other.


Having said those, it all boils down to two things: reputation and need.

If Chelsea put 10 men behind the ball, break on the counter and score a goal to win the game, it will inevitably be called parking the bus based simply on their reputation of doing so over the years. If Real Madrid do same, it will be called a counter attacking strategy because they do not exactly have a history of being a pro-defensive team. So, as we see, reputation counts for a lot in understanding how both approaches are perceived.

Because Arsenal are a brilliant, football playing side who dominate possession more often than not, it is difficult to regard their approach last night as parking the bus. Bayern Munich dominated, out-passed and ‘out-possessed’ Arsenal and so it was inevitable that the Gunners had to defend deep, often with 10 men behind the ball. But because Arsenal are Arsenal, and have no reputation of grinding out boring 0-0 wins or employing ultra defensive tactics in a bid to get results even when the whole world thinks they probably should have, it will be hard to term their game plan to be ‘parking the bus’

Another parameter for adjudging the two approaches is the need of the teams in question. Arsenal needed a result, kept men behind the ball but critically, they continued seeking ways to nick possession and get the ball forward to their pacy forwards and a number of times, they succeeded. Had they been in need of a just one point (guaranteed at the start of the match), and focused only on protecting their defence and goalkeeper, the scenario will be different. Despite having all those men behind the ball, Arsenal threatened Bayern Munich and kept them at bay- as shown by the stats.

Reputation and the execution of the game-plan count for a lot when it comes to describing how a less fancied team got a result against a seemingly superior side. In the case of Arsenal, it might have been luck, it might have been coincidence, but it was not ‘parking the bus’.


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