The first of Chelsea’s four finals — two actual finals, two proverbial ones in the top-four race — did not go according to plan.
Or to be more accurate, it went exactly to plan, until forces outside of our control intervened. When you play for small margins, those sorts of decisions and developments increase greatly in magnitude and impact.
But that’s been Tuchel’s general game-plan since taking over. Control the game through possession and defensive solidity — make Chelsea hard to beat, as he put it — and then use moments of quality to win the game. This hasn’t led to many goals, but it’s led to even fewer given up.
And that’s precisely what Chelsea set out to do today, against a team who, it shouldn’t be forgotten, are actually ahead of us in the league table. And for the most part, we executed to that plan with now customary excellence.
However, for the parts that actually reflect on the scoreboard, our execution lacked quality. And that still wouldn’t have been a problem — Leicester posed almost zero actual threat — but they got a lucky bounce off Ayoze Pérez’s hand, scored an absolute worldie by Youri Tielemans, got two world-class saves from Kasper Schmeichel, and when all else failed, were gifted an offside decision by VAR’s lines of game-is-gone.
And Chelsea were not good enough to overcome those combined forces of the football universe.
“We are disappointed and not angry with our performance from the boys. I think the performance is enough to win it. I think today we were unlucky and we’ve never hidden that we need to have that to win at this level. You need momentum, decision making, little details, the referee.
“I think we defended well, counter-pressed well, didn’t allow counter-attacks by one of the best counter-attacking sides in Europe. [...] We had a big chance with Azpi and in the second half we controlled the game. We conceded a goal from nothing. It’s a fantastic goal and a lucky goal. We have a chance from Mason, an offside goal that was very close. We were unlucky today.
“If we score a late goal we talk about the performance in another way: we kept calm, our workrate high, our concentration hight. We did very well against Vardy and Iheanacho and I’m happy with how we defended.
“As a coach, I can’t judge just form the result and I will not start now.”
And there is little time to dwell on this, as stinging and disappointing and frustrating and absolutely deflating it may be. We go again in just three days, and against the exact same team, even.
And that’s another must-win, even more so after today.
“There’s nothing much to do. We focus on our performance. We will talk about what we do and what we can do to be better.
“There is no single player who never loses. Now it’s about boucning back and showing the right mentality on Tuesday. We missed a trophy and we are sad about that. But we have another competition now.
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Winning on Tuesday won’t bring the FA Cup trophy back. It won’t make up for today’s defeat. But it is absolutely imperative that we do win.