VShelsea have weathered the turbulent final months of the Roman Abramovich era and will be aiming to start their new one with a bang and an FA Cup double. Both the men’s and women’s teams will be at Wembley this weekend hoping to bring home trophies to Stamford Bridge to end the season on a much-needed high note.
Thomas Tuchel’s side failed to live up to Chelsea’s expectations in August. After winning the Champions League and investing heavily in Romelu Lukaku, the manager and the fans were hoping for greater success. They lost in the Carabao Cup final to Saturday’s opponents Liverpool and a rematch would be sweet. Potential new owners will want to spend money on players, and the club would be a much more attractive option for potential targets with another trophy in the cabinet.
The uncertainty surrounding Chelsea has had an impact on the men’s team. Players want certainty to help them focus on the pitch. Seeing Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen unable to discuss new contracts, the German being on the verge of joining Real Madrid, disturbs. Chelsea’s success last season was built on defensive solidity, so the prospect of losing key centre-backs will worry many.
However, not everything can be attributed to contracts. In recent weeks, errors that led to goals were unusual. It might be due to fatigue as they played a lot of games last season and that, and the team might need to freshen up to motivate the players.
Tuchel handled the situation impressively. He will have wanted to finish closer to Manchester City and Liverpool but it’s hard to compete with two teams that have been almost faultless for so long. He has almost certainly secured Champions League football next season, which is imperative.
Victory at Elland Road on Wednesday shows there was merit in canceling the team’s day off to talk to players after Wolves’ draw. It was a case of risk versus reward. They clearly weren’t playing well and the improvement will help the team get into the only big game they have left. If there’s something as important as the FA Cup at stake, it’s worth clearing things up. Whether it’s discussing positive things or personal truths, freeing yourself from your chest can help release tension.
Emma Hayes’ side would see a Wembley victory over Manchester City as the icing on the cake. There is something special about this group. They had to give their all in the Women’s Super League until the last moment to secure a third title in a row. For months they have known that any slippage could give Arsenal the lead, who will have focused the spirits when the issues surrounding the club could have been a distraction.
Arsenal didn’t drop a point from early March to the end of the season. While this type of threat keeps the minds sharp, it will also have left players mentally fatigued by this point. Hayes knows how and when to get the most out of her players, so she won’t worry about extending the season for an extra week.
Chelsea will be confident going into the final, but I like Manchester City, which I know sounds really weird. They will have had less pressure recently, even if they had to fight for their place in the Champions League. They were comfortable at the end because of the way they were playing. They have won their last nine league games, scoring for fun, and everyone has scored goals.
Chelsea have the experience of winning last season’s Cup as recently as December, but City beat them in the Continental Cup final in March. I think City will dominate the ball and they’ve been amazing since February, and really started once they got their best players back.
Chelsea will always cause problems for their opponents. They have a Sam Kerr in form and as we saw in last season’s Cup final against Arsenal, they are so good in transitions and with direct balls overhead.
The big test for Chelsea this week will be recovering from what was a hugely emotional day last Sunday when they beat Manchester United to secure the title. Hayes is a big advocate for recovery, sometimes even more so than training itself. The players looked nervous against United in the first half and although they passed the test and were the better team in the second half, there was a 45 minute period where I didn’t get them recognised. I don’t think that will be the case again at Wembley.
Key players will leave the men’s and women’s teams this summer. The women fared better with the idea of Ji So-yun and Drew Spence leaving as they still have the backbone of their team, while the men could lose 33% of their defense. Teams will have an extra incentive to make sure all those players walk away with a bang after all they’ve done for the club.
There should be no distractions during the weekend. The focus can be on 180 decisive minutes which could be the springboard for greater success next season. The teams have done incredibly well to get this far under the circumstances. Now is the time to finish the job.