Chelsea’s crumble against Klopp’s kids was pathetic but not surprising

 | February 26 | 

7 mins read

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“Klopp’s kids versus the blue billion pound bottlejobs.” That was the most flavourful line of commentary from Sunday’s Carabao Cup final as Liverpool defeated Chelsea 1-0, courtesy of a Virgil van Dijk at the end of extra time.

Gary Neville likely frustrated lead commentator Peter Drury for stealing the show with that spectacular sentence, but he summed the match up perfectly, as Chelsea’s woes under owner Todd Boehly continue.

Chelsea Markets

  • Chelsea to finish in the top six - 10/3
  • Chelsea to win the FA Cup - 8/1

It was a match that was night and day when dividing the regulation 90 minutes and extra time. In normal time, we witnessed a fairly even contest, with possession stats almost 50/50. There were chances at either end, and Chelsea registered the best of the lot with an xG of 2.05 compared to Liverpool’s 1.46 (The xG Philosophy).

And over the course of 120 minutes, they still topped the xG charts with a total of 2.28 to Liverpool’s 1.78.

Cole Palmer and Conor Gallagher had several chances between them and the latter had the best chances of the game, to which he was equalled by Liverpool’s plucky cup competition goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who prevented an xG of 2.95 in Sunday’s Wembley showpiece with an astonishing nine saves.

The Blues were expected to have a decent shot at toppling Liverpool here as Jurgen Klopp’s squad had been decimated by injuries. Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Dominik Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all unavailable, and each of them make up part of the Reds’ strongest XI.

Klopp had no choice but to fill his bench up with academy products, which would have put more pressure on the seasoned professionals in the starting lineup. Ryan Gravenberch went off with an injury in the first half and he was replaced by Joe Gomez. He and Konstantinos Tsimikas were the only other recognised senior outfield players on the bench with vast experience.

Over the course of the game, four youngsters were given the chance to express themselves and taste a League Cup final. Bobby Clark (19), James McConnel (19), Jarell Quansah (21) and Jayden Danns (18) entered the fray over the course of the 120-minute final. Combined, these five substitutes cost a low £16.75m.

Compare this to Chelsea’s bench which featured £170m of talent in just Mykhailo Mudryk, Christopher Nkunku and Noni Madueke, three of the four changes made in the match. Mauricio Pochettino’s side had a clear advantage when it came to tired legs showing out on the pitch.

And yet, Liverpool’s inexperienced youth toppled Chelsea’s multi-million pound assets. Between them, Clark, Quansah, McConnell and Danns have played a combined 2,984 minutes (transfermarkt) of senior football, with Quansah boasting the bulk of the lot with 2,653 due to his appearances for both Liverpool and a previous loan spell with Bristol Rovers in League One. 

But unlike the other three, he would now be considered a first-team player for Klopp this year. And when you take away his minutes, you are left with just 331, which emphasises just how well the youngsters did against Chelsea when being thrown in at the deep end.

As it came to extra time, it was clear that one team was trying to win the game and it was the youthful Liverpool, as Chelsea had appeared to take their foot off the gas. The Reds’ young guns plugged away on the Wembley turf to help grind out an iconic victory in the history of the League Cup.

In the commentary, Neville and Jamie Carragher highlighted that it will be considered one of the greatest triumphs of the Klopp era due to the circumstances, which is true, but it was also just another transparent example of  how badly things are continuing to go for Chelsea and Pochettino.

Chelsea to finish in the top six at 10/3

The former Tottenham Hotspur boss mentioned after the game that his side were just hoping to get to penalties. He said: “The players started to lose their energy.[Ben Chilwell] Chilly felt, really, really tired. [Conor] Gallagher, after five minutes, we needed to change.

“The team felt maybe penalties would be good for us.”

It was that false sense of security that allowed Liverpool to take control of the game in extra time and it came to the surprise of no one when Van Dijk nodded in the winner at the death. It was nothing short of what Liverpool had deserved for their effort in the extra period, and the same applies to Chelsea but for their clear lack of it.

What was also damning for the west London outfit was that there was another poor collective performance from their £200m two-man midfield of Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo.

It was their 22nd start together and it could’ve easily been their first because there was no harmony between them in the middle of the park. There was in Liverpool’s and that was only the second time this season that Wataru Endo, Gravenberch and Alexis Mac Allister had started as a trio.

They were organised and well-balanced, complemented each other well, which has never been said when Fernandez and Caicedo have played together. And individually, they are both really struggling to live up to their expensive price tags.

Pochettino will be under more pressure from both fans and the club hierarchy as this season continues to unravel but he showed at Spurs that he is a good manager if he has the tools at his disposal. 

Right now he doesn’t have them at Chelsea. He has a bloated squad that has cost £1bn to assemble in the past two years, and there is no clear structure or plan for the recruitment at all. There are several players that offer some foundations for the Argentine to build on but he needs to be able to make his own stamp on the side - with a clear plan in place.

Boehly arrived in the Premier League full of arrogance believing that spending money solves everything. He has been incredibly naive and is finding out the hard way. A faction of the support are already getting tired of his reign and the manner of the cup final defeat will likely cause more to lose faith.

There’s an argument to be had that Pochettino's patience is wearing thin as he walked straight past the American businessman at Wembley when going up to receive his runners-up medal. Whether it was intentional or not remains to be seen, but it sparked a big talking point after the match.

The defeat now means that Chelsea have now become the first side in English football to lose six consecutive domestic cup finals (2019 League Cup, 2020 FA Cup, 2021 FA Cup, 2022 League Cup, 2022 FA Cup and 2024 League Cup), which only makes their current plight worse.

When you are one of the big dogs in English football and your form in the league is terrible (in this case Chelsea are 11th in the Premier League, nine points adrift of the top six), you can save face by winning other domestic silverware. 

This was a huge missed opportunity by Chelsea to claim their first trophy of the Boehly era, as well as Pochettino’s first in England. 

They’re currently only one position higher than their finish in the league last year and they are now at risk of going two consecutive years without Champions League football, which for a club of their size, as well as the fact they won the competition just three years ago, is embarrassing.

Fortunately for Chelsea, they still have one ace left to play and that is that they are still in the FA Cup. They host Championship high-flyers Leeds United in the fifth round at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening and after the weekend, there is an added pressure on the players and staff to deliver make amends for the shambolic crumble in the Carabao Cup final, which has seen the rest of English football have yet another laugh at their expense.

Chelsea to win the FA Cup at 8/1

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