Three FA Cup finals in a row for Chelsea, three defeats.
It was Arsenal in 2019/20, Leicester in 2020/21 and now it’s Liverpool who have kept Chelsea away from cup glory, with the Reds coming out on top on penalties after a nervy 0-0 draw through 120 minutes.
It’s clearly frustrating for Thomas Tuchel’s men, but the Blues must take pride in pushing Liverpool to the limit in a game which they could have easily won if they had simply been more composed in front of goal… again.
The game didn’t look like it would follow that path in the opening stages. Liverpool offered up a reminder in the gulf in quality between the two teams in the first 15 minutes as Luis Diaz continued to get through on goal and had Chelsea hanging on for dear life. It could have easily been over before it even began.
However, thanks to some smart tactical tweaks from Tuchel, not only did Chelsea hang on, but they grew into the game and took control for large parts.
Shifting Reece James slightly narrower to assist Trevoh Chalobah in his handling of Diaz worked like a charm and, with the tempo now back to manageable levels, Tuchel’s side started to threaten at the other end of the pitch, but for the bazillionth time in recent years, their inability to put the ball in the back of the net came back to bite them.
Christian Pulisic could have had a hat-trick, Mason Mount’s shooting boots were missing, Romelu Lukaku couldn’t find space (again) and even the usually reliable Marcos Alonso wasn’t at his best in the box.
Once again, Chelsea’s frailties in the penalty area have cost them.
Sure, Liverpool’s forwards were poor in front of goal, but the difference is this is an isolated incident for them. How many games have each of Luis Diaz, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino been so wasteful in attack?
For Chelsea, this is a weekly occurrence and has been for some time.
Things with Lukaku still aren’t working, which is the primary issue. This summer must bring a resolution, whether that’s a transfer or a tactical tweak, Chelsea can’t keep going on like this. They would have won this game with a striker who could actually take part in their system – both sides are at blame for that, for what it’s worth.
Behind him, Kai Havertz missed out through injury and Timo Werner was left on the bench after being spotted limping in the warm-up, but those who did make it on to the pitch didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory when it comes to goalscoring.
It feels like reinforcements are needed. Tuchel’s current crop of forwards just don’t score goals, and while they try their best to make up for it in other areas, it’s unsustainable and can prove the difference between victory and defeat, just as it did at Wembley.
Defenders are the obvious priority once the summer transfer window opens, but Chelsea can’t afford to forget about their attack. It proved the difference between themselves and Liverpool in this cup final, and if things stay the same, it could well separate the two in the title picture next year as well.