Thomas Tuchel dropped to his knees and repeatedly pounded his fists on the Wembley turf as he thought it was time for Chelsea’s redemption amid the turbulence of this chaotic season.
The Chelsea manager had prepared for the worst when Sadio Mane stepped forward to take the penalty that would have won the FA Cup for Liverpool, but was stopped by a brilliant save from Senegal team-mate Edouard Mendy.
Tuchel got to his feet and punched the air, only to feel like he had been punched in the stomach moments later when Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson saved Mason Mount’s penalty, leaving the substitute. Kostas Tsimikas to complete the paperwork on Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The painful history repeated itself for Chelsea. They went toe-to-toe with Liverpool at Wembley, as they did in February’s EFL Cup final, only to have penalties separate the teams at their expense once again.
Tuchel bowed his head as he walked up the Wembley steps to collect another loser’s medal after an eventful final that ended Chelsea’s hopes of winning one of the four major trophies.
It also gave them the unwanted record of being the first team to lose three successive FA Cup finals after defeats to Arsenal and Leicester City.
Chelsea have suffered trauma on and off the pitch this season and, despite a likely place in next season’s Champions League as a reward for their efforts, there is an unmistakable sense that the winds of change will soon blow through. Stamford Bridge.
Todd Boehly will take over as Chelsea’s new owner when he replaces Roman Abramovich, who single-handedly financed their success before being sanctioned and effectively forced to sell due to alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It will be a different ownership model, not just beholden to one man’s whims and demands, which is good news for Tuchel because a season without one of those four trophies invariably brings some very strict scrutiny from Abramovich, even after to win the Champions League. He eleven months ago.
Of course, Boehly will be absolutely right to stick with Tuchel, an outstanding manager who was also a worthy leader for Chelsea when the club’s future was in limbo and Abramovich ended his time in charge.
On the pitch, Tuchel has issues to tackle and eyes will be on Boehly to see how he navigates and finances Chelsea in the new era.
The club’s defensive mainstay, Anthony Rudiger, is leaving for Real Madrid, while their standout captain, Cesar Azpilicueta, may also be out and another defender, Andreas Christensen, is headed to Barcelona.
Tuchel has some good players to work with and a thriving academy, as evidenced by the success of Conor Gallagher on loan at Crystal Palace, but the big guys and top-class players need to be replaced, all in the later part of the season that It should be seen as a disappointment. when measured in trophies.
The German coach was not helped here by Kai Havertz, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury before striker Timo Werner reported a similar problem in warm-up and felt unable to play.
Chelsea won the Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup this season, but these are additional trinkets to the plethora of trophies that have been arriving at Stamford Bridge on a regular basis in recent years.
The biggest dilemma of all may well surround striker Romelu Lukaku, who was entrusted with a starting job at Wembley but did nothing to allay growing suspicion that his £97.5m return to Chelsea from Inter Milan last summer is not meant to work.
Lukaku came into the game thanks to decent performances and three goals in Chelsea’s previous two games, but he couldn’t deliver here and was given a consolation pat by Tuchel when he was replaced by Hakim Ziyech with five minutes to play.
It was hardly a surprise.
There was no shortage of effort and hardly any overserving, but Lukaku showed a lack of confidence and control, the rare opportunities he seized.
He was billed as the final piece in Chelsea’s puzzle when he arrived after the Champions League final victory against Manchester City last June, but after an impressive start, he has receded amid the scrutiny surrounding his comments outside of the game. pitch about his role at the club.
Lukaku may have a chance to turn good in his second season, but he hasn’t provided a huge return on Chelsea’s investment. Tuchel gave him a great opportunity at Wembley and he didn’t take it.
Chelsea and Tuchel have a lot to work with. They’ve taken Liverpool every inch of the way in two domestic cup finals, so it’s not a crisis time when you can do that.
However, this will be a pivotal summer for a club and fan base hoping to be not only challenging, but winning, at an elite level.
Chelsea, in general, lag far behind Liverpool and Manchester City, so new owner Boehly must start working together with Tuchel in a bid to close the gap.
The good news for the manager is that a period of great uncertainty is over and stability may return.
They now have home games against Leicester City and relegated Watford to confirm Champions League football will get some return this season.
With that done, and the anguish of this latest vicious loss on penalties, Chelsea and Boehly face a summer that will shape the club’s immediate future.