What Is Park The Bus In Football?

A lot has been said about tactics in football, and in this post, I will share with you the most hated football tactic; parking the bus. This tactic is notably used by the special one, Jose Mourinho in his early days at Chelsea football club and Inter Millan though some coaches have already been implementing this approach in some games with a new idea.

The soccer park the bus tactic has won crucial games on the biggest stages though you can hate it for the flow of the game.

So, without further ado, at the end of this post, you will understand different tactics used in soccer which will include park the bus soccer formation. But before we dive into the main topic;

What Are Tactics In Football?

In football (soccer), tactics refer to the way a team is set up or an approach that a team uses to outplay their opponents. This can include formations, positioning of players, set pieces, and movement of the ball. 

In a nutshell, if you aim to win a game then you need to implement specific tactics to counter your opponent’s strengths or exploit their weaknesses. Examples of tactics are opponents playing a high-pressing game, using a fast-paced attacking style, or implementing a more defensive approach.

However, there are mainly two tactics managers or coaches use in football;

  • Attacking tactics
  • Defensive tactics

1. Attacking Tactics

What level of risk-taking to impose on the attack is a decision that all teams must make when in possession of the ball. Playing with smaller margins can have better rewards but also more risks because defensive teams can use transitions to their advantage by counter-attacking.

Higher margins increase ball possession security but may also cause play to pause for extended stretches without scoring opportunities. 

All players involved in attacking tactics play must possess strong anticipation abilities since several decisions must be taken before the attacking play is initiated.

2. Defensive Tactics

All outfield players are given defensive responsibilities on the field, and these responsibilities are somewhat based on tactics. There are essentially two types of defense: zone defense and man-to-man defense. 

Defenders move mostly in synchronization with teammates when playing in a zone defense as opposed to man-to-man, where players move primarily about opponents. 

Hybrids of the two are observed whenever defensive players are given, or give themselves, a greater degree of freedom. These days, teams frequently implement a mix of the two approaches.

Defensive systems can either be a strength or a weakness since strong attacking teams are skilled at taking advantage of poor defensive teams’ lack of defensive organization.

Pressure width is a factor in defensive tactics; it refers to the extent to which teams permit players to approach the sidelines when pressing wide as opposed to staying central. 

Teams that favor a wide pressing approach will typically allow more than one player to be at or near the sidelines at any given time, whereas defenders that take a more centered approach will typically keep that number to one or zero.

What Is Park The Bus In Soccer?

In football, Park the bus is a term used to explain a defensive tactic in soccer where a team lines up all of its players in its penalty area or half of the field and essentially “parks” the team’s “bus” (i.e. the defense) in front of it the own goal to prevent the opponent from scoring. 

In other words, parking the bus in soccer is an often-used defensive tactic used by teams who aim to secure a crucial point.

It involves packing the penalty area with as many defenders as possible, creating a ‘wall’ of players that makes it difficult for the opponent to penetrate or create a good goal-scoring opportunity.

Teams who are leading a game and want to protect their lead, or teams who are struggling with their attacking play mostly use the park-the-bus tactic.

Some football fans believe that Park the bus is anti-football and they often see it as a negative tactic as it slows down the game and tends to make it less entertaining. 

However, this approach has proven to be one of the best approaches to winning games even on a big stage. Take, for instance, Chelsea vs Barcelona in the Champions League in 2012 where the game ended 2-2. Barcelona had all the ball possession in the game while the Blues had an excellent defensive tactic and that was what won the match.

The BIGGEST BUS Ever Parked - Barcelona - Chelsea 2-2 Tactical Analysis

In addition, it gives the team a better chance of holding onto their lead or even snatching a point in a game they are struggling in.

During the play, the defenders strive to leave as little open space for the opponent to take advantage of while maintaining a deep line and being compact. 

Then, the wingers or forward winger support their fullbacks by containing the opponent’s wingers while the midfielders protect their back four. Every time a football team plays defense, the opponent will be tempted to control possession and advance up the field. 

And if the attacking side loses the ball, the defensive team may immediately start a counterattack which could prove a point to the defensive side.

However, Parking the bus is not a terrible approach, despite the supporters’ desire for teams to attack and play entertaining football.

Park The Bus Soccer Formation

It takes a lot of skill to implement park-the-bus formation successfully in a game. Jose Mourinho was probably the first coach who used these tactics and that was the game against Tottenham, the game ended in a draw.

Before the game, he made it known in the press conference the kind of result that his team will play for in the game. He knew his team needed at least a point, if they can’t get the three points then, they shouldn’t lose the whole three-point.

And at the end of the game, they achieved their desired result. And sometimes, he used the “park the bus” formation after taking the lead either in the first half or in the second half.

Only the central striker, who will continue the counter-attack is near the half line with this tactic, while the rest of the team will be defending till the referee blows the final whistle.

However, there are different formations to use if a team intends to defend or park the bus in a game. To mention a few, here are some of the mind-blowing park the bus formation;

  1. 3 – 6 – 1
  2. 5 – 4 – 1
  3. 3 – 5 – 2

1. 3 – 6 – 1 Formation

This soccer formation is uncommon in modern football this unusual modern football approach that emphasizes midfield ball possession. Since it is more effective for holding a lead or a tie score, it is very uncommon to see it as an opening formation. 

The 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-3 diamonds are its more popular variations, both of which use two wing-backs. The lone forward must possess exceptional tactical skills since in addition to scoring goals, he also assists his teammates by passing the ball back to them.

When a side is in the lead in a game, there is an even greater tactical emphasis on ball control, quick passes, and utilizing the remaining time. 

In contrast, at least one of the playmakers will frequently play on the edge of the area while the team is losing to offer depth to the assault. 

Among the few coaches who have used this park the bus formation are Steve Sampson (for the United States at the 1998 World Cup) and Guus Hiddink (for Australia at the 2006 World Cup). 

2. 5-4-1 Formation

With a lone forward and a tactical defense, this formation is completely defensive. Again, though, this formation can resemble a 3-6-1 with a handful of attacking full-backs. 

The Greek national team, who won Euro 2004, is among the most well-known examples of its park-the-bus formation.

3. 3-5-2 Formation

This formation resembles the 5-3-2 with a few key differences: there is typically no sweeper (or libero), instead using three traditional center backs, and the two wing-backs are more inclined to attack. 

As a result, the central midfielder usually plays further back to help defend against counterattacks. It also differs from the traditional 3-5-2 in that the midfield is not staggered. 

Numerous managers claim to have created the 3-5-2 formation, but Carlos Bilardo was the first to use it effectively at the FIFA World Cup as he guided Argentina to the 1986 World Cup victory.

The 1990 World Cup saw both of the 3-5-2’s finalists, Franz Beckenbauer’s West and Argentina under Bilardo, reaching the final.

During Antonio Conte’s time at Juventus, he implemented this defensive formation and won three straight Serie A championships between 2012 and 2014 with an unbeaten and massive points record.

At Chelsea, he used the 3-5-2 formation during the 2016–17 Premier League season, Conte led the team to the league title and an FA Cup final after guiding the Italian national team. 

Other teams, like Ronald Koeman’s Everton and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, also adopted the formation to effectively combat the extra forward play from the wing-backs in the approach.


Like a popular quote in football; Attacking play will win you games while defensive play will win you trophies. As a football fan, you will want to enjoy the pleasure of the game and smile at some wow moments, but that quote has proven to be true.

You can have the whole wow moments in the game but at the end, you may not smile at the cup. For me, parking the bus is like every other tactic a coach can use in a game if the aim is to win and get the maximum point. 

Even some coaches have modernized this approach in such a way that the game will be entertaining to the fans, but tactically, it’s a defensive play. I have watched the likes of Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp use these tactics to dominate the game.