Chelsea began the season with a chance to earn six trophies and titles. We got the first two (Super Cup, Club World Cup), got as close as possible to two more only to fall short at the literal finish line by the narrowest of margins (League Cup, FA Cup), almost pulled off a most historic comeback against one of the finalists in the Champions League (after shooting ourselves in the foot), and were looking good for a while in the league as well before falling by the wayside as winter came (though still should be finishing in the top-four fairly comfortably).
It feels like a worse season than it actually has been, since our biggest successes came early and our biggest disappointments came late in the grueling 63-game schedule. There is plenty of solace to be taken from the fact that we made it as far as we did in all those competitions however, that we actually had the chance to experience those disappointments, and be disappointed by them. If nothing else, that speaks to the level of expectations and ambitions that we’ve maintained at Chelsea over the past two decades, and that we should be and need to be looking to maintain under the new ownership as well.
It also speaks to the fact that on our day, we can certainly go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world. We lost to the defending Premier League champions (and champions-elect) Manchester City twice this season, both times by a single goal. We almost eliminated La Liga champions Real Madrid with the aforementioned comeback at the Bernabéu, losing by a single goal once again on aggregate. And of course we played Liverpool four times, and they failed to beat us over the course of those 420 minutes, needing a total of 18 penalties across two shootouts to find a winning margin.
There may be a healthy dose of rationalizing going on in there, but as with any situation in life, there’s little use in dwelling on the negatives, especially when there are in fact so many positives to take and build from. Obviously, it would’ve been nice to actually win any or all of those matchups, but at least we know we have foundations in place on which to keep developing the one ingredient still missing: consistency.
And not just any consistency, peak consistency, as Thomas Tuchel reflected upon last night.
“We proved four times this season that we can produce peak performances to compete with them at this kind of level. It showed in all results that we deserved and they could’ve gone in our way and could’ve gone in their way. We produced these peak performances against them.
“[We] have everything it takes to win trophies. We proved it [and] we have the Club World Cup and European Super Cup. I don’t feel sorry that this was the beginning of the season and winter.
“[We] can produce peak performances and we have the mentality in the club to shape the mentality of the players to have these peak performances but over the last years, Man City and Liverpool have proved you need to show that at a level of consistency we don’t have and that we have struggled with. So we need to find it, build it, create it.”
It’s one thing to win a game, to win a trophy. It’s another thing entirely to keep doing so consistently, day in, day out, week in, week out, all season long, and for multiple seasons. “We have champions, but not serial champions,” as Mourinho put in bluntly back in 2015 before spectacularly scuttling the ship.
Tuchel’s thankfully taking a more tactful approach.
“The difference for me throughout the season is they can do it on Wednesday again, and then Saturday, and then Wednesday. And we struggle. [And] this is where the gap comes. They can produce these kinds of performances more often. They build this team for many years now and have improved it. So this is where the gap is.”
We’ve been trying to close that gap since 2017. We’ve made it smaller. We can almost reach across and reach the other side. But we can’t quite step over just yet.
Can we be patient enough to develop a solution to the gap? Can we trust the people who seem to have a plan to actually implement that plan even if it that plan involves years rather than months? Every plan has a chance of failure and no plan is foolproof, but Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are not the fourth and fifth longest-serving managers, respectively, in the top four divisions currently by accident.
In Tuchel We Trust.
“While I will not promise victories, I will promise that we will deliver, heart, passion, commitment, and living up to the fullest and having no regrets.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London