Neville’s ‘billion pound blue jobs’ line will immortalise Chelsea’s pain

Not all defeats are the same and no defeat in football is worse than a defeat.

“In extra time, it was Klopp’s boys against the billion-pound blue bottles,” said Sky Sports co-commentator Gary Neville, establishing succinctly and indisputably the dominant narrative of a surreal Carabao Cup final not as Virgil van Dijk’s header settled into the far corner of Djordje Petrovic’s net.

Liverpool hadn’t just beaten Chelsea at Wembley (again), they’d done so in a way that validated the ‘mental monsters’ culture Jurgen Klopp has cultivated – seemingly across all age groups at Kirkby so as in the first team – in recent years. nine years, mercilessly exposing the fatal flaws of the lavish Stamford Bridge investment project financed by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital for the past two.

In the bowels of Wembley after the match, a despondent Mauricio Pochettino wearily took on the task of underlining the nuances of the narrative. “I don’t hear what he said, but if you compare the ages of the two groups, I think it’s similar,” the Chelsea manager said when asked about Neville’s line. “Look, I have a good relationship with Gary. I don’t know how I can take his opinion, but I respect it.

“We are a young team. Nothing to do with Liverpool because they also ran out of youth. It is impossible to make comparisons and he knows that the dynamics are completely different. “We were playing against Liverpool and Chelsea, Chelsea and Liverpool, and I don’t think it’s right to talk like that.”

The dynamic between youth and experience at Wembley was not as clear as Neville had implied. Liverpool’s playing XI had a higher average age than Chelsea’s at the start of the match and at the start of extra time. Van Dijk, a 32-year-old who now has 11 major trophies to his name, was the best outfield player and found the net with two headers worthy of winning a final, only one of which survived the VAR review.

Cole Palmer is denied by Caoimhin Kelleher (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

But the counterargument becomes difficult to make when the other team includes two 19-year-olds, Bobby Clark and James McConnell, who have each played fewer than 10 professional games and another (Jayden Danns) who was making his second senior appearance. Chelsea have undoubtedly lost to several guys; the bigger question is: did they bottle it?

Chelsea showed unmistakable signs of nervousness at Wembley. Axel Disasi twice triggered Liverpool’s transition attacks by fumbling the ball with little pressure. Malo Gusto, usually so confident, controlled passes directly out of play on several occasions. Levi Colwill attempted to pass out to Ben Chilwell miles above and had to be told to calm down by Enzo Fernandez, who played sloppy passes with surprising frequency.

Further forward, Conor Gallagher struggled with an eerily similar cocktail of bad luck and poor composure in front of goal that plagued fellow Cobham graduate Mason Mount against the same opponents at the same stadium in 2022.

Gallagher wasted several chances (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

However, as the clock ticked towards the end of the 90 minutes, it was Chelsea who looked like lighter winners, with Cole Palmer tearing apart a Liverpool team whose legs appeared to be gone. It was at this point that Klopp made a decision that probably no other elite manager would have made: to place the fate of a major trophy in the hands of unproven youngsters rather than retire with experience and play penalties.

His choice has turned this Carabao Cup final into the spiritual sequel to Chelsea’s bizarre 4-1 win over nine-man Tottenham Hotspur in November – a situation where a convincing victory is the only acceptable result and anything less brings to total humiliation. Pochettino had to lead his team through a nervy, aimless 20 minutes that night before they overcame the fear of looking ridiculous – of being the recipient of a beating defeat – and went on to win the match.

Klopp’s ‘that’s just who we are, mate’ moment seemed to plunge Chelsea into a Wembley-like mental crisis that lasted for most of extra time, made worse by their declining energy levels. At half-time of their pitifully uncertain performance in the added period, all Chilwell, Disasi and Moises Caicedo could be seen prostrate on the pitch receiving attention for cramps.

Don’t lose, replaced victory is Chelsea’s top priority. “The team started to think that maybe penalties would be good for us,” Pochettino said, making an admission of weakness towards himself and this group of players in the aftermath of the match’s acrimony.

Pochettino’s face reflects the atmosphere at Chelsea (Getty Images)

The finals define the clubs, players and managers who respond. Klopp has lost his fair share over the years, but never through passivity and that ironclad commitment to the idea of ​​who Liverpool are brought forward at Wembley. Chelsea’s identity as experienced finals winners has begun to fade in recent years under the ownership of Roman Abramovich; That is now seven cup final defeats in their last eight away games at the national stadium, and six in a row.

Doubts about Pochettino’s ability to reverse this trend will only intensify. In five years at Tottenham, he built impressive teams that failed to win and, despite his avowed emphasis on the power of positive energy, his callous Chelsea were destroyed by Klopp’s unrivaled mastery of psychological momentum.

Liverpool as a whole are far better than Chelsea, but they won the Carabao Cup final not thanks to superior talent, but to a superior mentality, combined with an unmistakable sense of identity that binds the first team and youth sector together : In other words, things that Boehly and Clearlake money simply can’t buy.

“They need to feel the pain,” Pochettino said of his Chelsea players. The pain of this loss of lines will be difficult to overcome, immortalized by Neville’s brutal words.

(Top image: Pochettino’s changes were not as effective as Klopp’s. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)