Chelsea are into the Last 16 of the FA Cup for the 21st time in the last 24 seasons, during which time no other team have won it as many times as we have. (Arsenal also have 7 but don’t tell anyone.)
Mateo Kovačić, who played a major role (good and bad) in Chelsea beating Hull City on Saturday to advance, has joined several others in publicly targeting the trophy and wanting to bring it home for the 8th time the past quarter century.
“They scored a goal from a free-kick, which was my mistake. I did a little bit of a strange jump and the ball touched me. Sometimes that can happen but the most important thing is we got the win and we are through.
“The FA Cup is a great competition and we want to win it.”
Of course, we have to take it one game, one round at a time, as the cliches dictate. Fortunately, after Monday’s draw, we should have a very good chance to advancing to the quarterfinals, even though there’s a possibility that we’ll be facing un-defeat-able Liverpool next.
But Liverpool, who have practically confirmed their first league title in 30 years already and are concentrating on trying to defend their Champions League triumph, have essentially sacked off the two domestic competitions — Liverpool’s kids were eliminated to the tune of 5-0 from the League Cup by Aston Villa earlier, and now Klopp is refusing to participate in the replay against third division Shrewsbury Town to decide who gets to come to Stamford Bridge at the start of March.
Even if Klopp gives in and doesn’t just send the youth team, he clearly doesn’t care at all about this competition. But we do — or at least we should — as it is the best chance for a trophy this season. With Liverpool probably out, we have at least a good chance against all the other teams left, with Manchester City the obvious big hurdle potentially remaining.
But to accomplish any of that, we’ll have to improve on the pitch. Kovačić knows just as we know and just as the rest of the team know, but knowing is different than actually doing.
“We had some chances [against Hull] and we didn’t use them. In training, we are working on it but we are still a young team, a new team, and we need to improve a lot. We need to take our chances, which in this moment we are not doing great, but we have time to improve and I am sure we will do.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: Chelsea FC
The goal is always to improve, to keep on improving, but in the specific sense that we need to improve in the context of this season, time is starting to run out.
It’s a crucial period coming up, not just in the FA Cup but very much so in the Premier League and the Champions League as well — after the weekend’s massive away game against third place Leicester City, we go on winter break, then come back with matches against Manchester United, Spurs, Bayern, Bournemouth away, this FA Cup tie, Everton, Villa away, Bayern second leg, and Manchester City, all before the end of March.
We’ve been saying that we have time to improve since the summer. In the long-term, that remains very much true. In the short-term, it’s soon to be business time. And it’s not even Wednesday.