Chelsea come up short again and new perspective is needed to catch Liverpool and Man City

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Thomas Tuchel Chelsea 2021-22
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The Blues are on the cusp of a new ownership era, but there are plenty of issues to resolve, including player contracts, transfers and tactics

Chelsea have played 240 cup-final minutes against Liverpool this season and showed plenty of heart and effort, as well as a certain amount of quality.

Yet the brutal truth remains that Jurgen Klopp's side emerged victorious twice on penalties in both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals. 

Liverpool are currently achieving everything the Blues would have wanted since appointing Thomas Tuchel and after spending £320 million ($392m) across the last two summer transfer windows. 

Although they claimed a Club World Cup and Super Cup title - having qualified for those tournaments courtesy of a Champions League win the previous season - they come away from this season with a sense of regret. 

In Tuchel's mind, there are mitigating circumstances.

The club have played 63 games in all competitions and had to contend with a glut of Covid-19 cases and injuries alongside the sanctions which created a sense of uncertainty within the first team. 

The losses of Ben Chilwell and Reece James through injury were particularly hard felt, but the issues go much deeper and the excuses only go so far. There are plenty of problems of Chelsea's own making.

A huge proportion of the new signings mentioned above have been attackers - including Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. 

Romelu Lukaku Chelsea Thomas Tuchel GFX

None of those has impressed consistently, with Lukaku top-scoring this season on 15 goals, exactly half of what Liverpool's top scorer Mohamed Salah has managed and still significantly fewer strikes than both Sadio Mane and rotation option Diogo Jota.

Eden Hazard was the last player to score over 20 goals for Chelsea in a single season and that came during his final campaign in 2018-19.

Chelsea have not integrated Lukaku into the squad very well. His 15 touches at Wembley on Saturday are a sign that, without a team built around him, he cannot perform in big matches for the Blues. 

Tuchel's team played decently in both finals against Liverpool, but Edouard Mendy had to produce a masterful performance in the Carabao Cup and they hung on largely as a result of Liverpool’s poor finishing in the FA Cup game a few months later. 

They have been unable to combine solidity with fluid attacking play on a regular basis this season, and that is partly down to a desire to hide their weaknesses. 

Playing with five at the back is due to a lack of physicality in the spine of the team, with 37-year-old Thiago Silva best-suited to this system and Jorginho requiring men behind him due to his lack of recovery pace to stop counterattacks. 

Then there are further issues regarding transfers and contracts.

Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen will leave the club on free transfers to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively this summer.

Antonio Rudiger Joel Matip Chelsea Liverpool GFX

In the Dane's case, that decision was taken after talks broke down between the club and the player. Christensen is said to have pulled out of the FA Cup final as relationships in the camp are not as strong as the bonds which allowed the club to win the Champions League as relative underdogs. 

Initially it was felt that Rudiger's situation would be impacted by sanctions, which would not allow Chelsea to renew player contracts, but he has since set the record straight, hinting that his situation was similar to Christensen’s. 

“I don’t want to go deep into things. There was a chance but sanctions are not the problem," he said at Wembley.

"Personally for myself it’s the third time (I have lost a final) so you can’t always say unlucky, unlucky, unlucky,” he added.

Such mismanagement of big players is a massive setback that Tuchel does not believe can be resolved over the summer in order to catch up with Liverpool. 

"I have to say, maybe impossible," Tuchel said. "They [Liverpool] are improving their squad in every transfer window they have. It seems like we are losing key players. We are losing, of course, Toni, we’re losing Andreas. So this is tough and we already have a gap close.”

And when you look at the players who have been sold, outgoing transfers continue to be an issue. Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, Tino Livramento and Kurt Zouma could have been useful to Chelsea had things worked out differently and they had not been sold over the summer. 

More youth talent is likely to leak out of the Cobham academy with few chances given to them in the first team this season.

With new owner Todd Boehly having watched on for the last few games, the Blues know they're entering a new era. 

“He paid some money for it, so I don’t think he is keen to drop the ambition," Tuchel said after meeting Boehly for lunch last week. 

Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea GFX

"That would be a big surprise, so no I don’t doubt this. We will share our opinion in more detail over the next weeks and I am sure he is as ambitious to build a competitive Chelsea for the highest level.”

The new era will bring a similar approach to Liverpool; Boehly's minimum 10-year ownership of the club will be defined by whether or not his regime can compete in the modern data-driven, computer science and technical innovation era of the superclub. 

Chelsea are currently better than some rivals, like Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, and will qualify for the Champions League again. But they fall way short on Manchester City and Liverpool. The gap to the top of the table has grown to 22 points from last season's 19-point shortfall. 

"We have two trophies, the Super Cup and the Club World Cup which we have to appreciate," club captain Cesar Azpilicueta said when asked by GOAL.

 "Of course when you arrive here and lose two finals, you are disappointed. We now have two games to finish third. 

"We are Chelsea, a club that wants to win everything. This is how we have acted in every single season. It’s not going to change. As a group, we want more.

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"I don’t know what to say. Today I see everything negative."

The Roman Abramovich era has ended with Man City and Liverpool on top and reaching a level that Chelsea cannot currently get to. 

The Blues cannot keep up with the best two teams in the country and can only hope a fresh ownership perspective might be what's needed to take them to the next level. 

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