Despite looking so strong in recent weeks, the Blues crumbled in the FA Cup Final against Leicester. It was a poor display in truth, with the major chances coming after the 85th minute. One of those appeared to have saved face, only for a VAR check to dramatically devastate Chelsea fans at Wembley.
Another game on Tuesday against the same opponents beckons, with equally wide implications. While one trophy may have evaded Tuchel’s grasp, there’s also a Champions League final to look forward to. That said, losing a cup final is never easy, regardless of the opponents, the performance, or upcoming possibilities. Here are five things we learned as Chelsea succumbed to the Foxes.
Chelsea vs Leicester: Pressure Told When It Mattered Most
Despite many predictions that Leicester would be the team looking nervy, it was Chelsea who looked inexperienced throughout. A tepid first half display did nothing to inspire confidence, and the second half saw a dreadful performance, up until the last 5 minutes. It was by no means a meltdown, but the players, for whatever reason, had a mental barrier which they couldn’t seem to overcome, particularly in the attacking third.
Going forward, as mentioned, it was, to put it bluntly, absolutely woeful. The front three did very little throughout, with Werner and Ziyech staying on for longer than they really ought to. It wasn’t just individual players however, with the team as a collective seeming to be off the pace, particularly after the interval. Whether it was the pressure of being favourites, or the ever-present nerves on cup final day, Tuchel’s troops did not look the side they have been in recent weeks.
With huge games still to come, this mindset must be rapidly shifted, else the last 270 minutes of Chelsea’s season could be catastrophic.
Current Chelsea: High Potential, Low Expectations?
Merely a few days ago, life as a Chelsea fan was brilliant – two finals, an almost nailed-on Top Four finish. What could be better? Unfortunately, thanks to two subpar performances, there is not as much to be hopeful about. One final is out the window, and the league positions will be tough to secure in the final two games. Therefore, fans will need to reconsider what may be possible from Chelsea this season – particularly based on this performance.
Had the Blues bounced back after Wednesday, the conversation would be very different. As it is however, opposition managers have started to spot problems as time has gone on. Going into a Champions League final as underdogs may help with expectations, but top four may also be an objective that is not possible for the team now. Of course, it’s still entirely in our hands, but with the risk of another performance like Saturday’s to repeat itself, there remains an underlying feeling of concern at what may occur in the next fortnight.
Chelsea & Cup Finals: No Longer the Pair They Once Were
Once upon a time, Chelsea in a cup final meant only one thing: another trophy for the Blues. Now though, it seems to be much the opposite. One statistic which makes for particularly painful reading is that of the volume of such losses in recent years. Having made four cup finals out of the previous five, we’ve only been successful in one. Now, of course each game is different and much of the 2017 squad no longer remains at the club, but this is evidently becoming an issue.
Drogba and his ‘big game presence’ is now long gone, and without such a prolific scorer, the Blues have struggled. For English clubs, the FA Cup Final is the pinnacle of a season. The accolade is not what it used to be, but the premise remains the same. It’s a trophy, and you absolutely do not want to lose. A pattern developing of doing just that is worrying – let’s hope it can be put right as soon as possible.
VAR Has Never Felt So Cruel
We’ve been through our fair share of VAR calls ruling out goals this season, but today felt different. The Blues had performed relatively poorly in the second 45 minutes, but a last minute equaliser evoked joy among supporters. Two minutes later however, and the total opposite feelings were on show. The lines had come out, a verdict had made made and, well, you know the rest…
Whether it was the right decision (which it probably was), is rather irrelevant. The fact is, it sucked the life out of what was an otherwise exhilarating moment as a Chelsea fan. For better or worse, everyone can agree on one thing about VAR – it takes the fun out of football. Sure, decisions may be more accurate and less offsides are missed but, really, is it worth it? Cup finals are there to provide drama – does such a tight offside really give Chilwell an advantage? It’s futile to even speculate, really, because the fact is, what has happened has happened. The one thing which can be contemplated is whether we even want to keep snatching away such joyous moments for so-called ‘accuracy’. It’s a hard balance to find but, personally, I know what side I fall on, and it’s not the one which involves trigonometry on the football pitch.
Football Is Nothing Without Fans
On a day when everything else seemed to be falling apart, the return of fans was a welcome building block to normal life. Although it was the Foxes fanbase who celebrated at the final whistle, simply hearing supporters was refreshing to say the least. Whether it was the boos for former players, the taunts at the referee or the screams for goal kicks, a sense of normality felt restored.
On top of this, a resounding number of club supporters at the game felt excited for one of football’s great traditions, particularly given events in recent weeks. The core message seemed one of defiance against unwanted, and unnecessary change. Whatever the result, this is the greatest cup competition in the world. Anyone can win it, anyone can lose it and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t change that for the world.
The only thing I would change is the result – but there’s a chance to bounce bank on Tuesday, and let’s hope the boys do so emphatically. If they fail to do so, this season may go from incredibly immense to interminably insignificant.
Written by Noah Robson (@noahr24_)
Edited by Dan Hill