Chelsea’s 26th Cup Final in Just 18 Seasons

Chelsea's 26th cup final

Following their recent win over Crystal Palace, next month’s meeting against Liverpool will be Chelsea’s 26th cup final in just 18 seasons. That means that Thomas Tuchel’s side and Jurgen Klopp’s team will become just the second set of clubs, after Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday in 1993, to contest both of England’s domestic cup finals in the same season.

The two punched their FA Cup final tickets over the weekend with victories over Palace and Manchester City respectively. It adds another chapter to the two clubs’ rivalry, ensures Klopp’s men remain in the running for an unprecedented “quadruple” and continues a remarkable run for the Blues – their 26th final in just 18 seasons.

Chelsea’s 26th Cup Final in 18 Seasons – A Remarkable Record

New Era Chelsea Start the Run but Finals Record in Decade Before Not to Be Sniffed At

From the 2004/05 season (the beginning of Jose Mourinho’s first stint in charge) until now, the club has made nine FA Cup finals, (five in the last six seasons including this year), six in the League Cup, four European Super Cup finals, three Champions League finals, two Europa League finals and two Club World Cup finals. Of the 25 played so far, 14 have resulted in victory. This, on top of five Premier League titles, makes Chelsea the most successful English club in this period.

In just 15 months in charge, Tuchel has been responsible for six of these finals – back-to-back FA Cup’s, this season’s League Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup – the latter two as a result of winning the Champions League final last May. This sequence has been a (turbo-charged) continuation of what we’ve come to expect at this time of the year – Chelsea in a cup final.

Of course, this success has come largely as a result of the now-former funding of Roman Abramovich, whose 2003 arrival in West London changed the landscape of English football – for the worse as now clearly seen. Prior to the Russian oligarch’s takeover, Chelsea had competed in just 15 finals in their then-98 year history. To be fair, the club had been a bit of a cup side in the first decade of the Premier League, winning the FA Cup twice in 1997 and 2000, the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1998, as well as the European Super Cup at the start of the next season.

Even with the additional funding provided and the hoarding of final berths and trophies by the big clubs in England, it’s a record unmatched by any side in this period. In truth, no one has come close. Manchester United and Liverpool are in joint second place with 16 finals apiece, with Liverpool looking to make that a 17th with another Champions League final this season.

“The Show Must Go On” – Chelsea Thrive Under Pressure Once Again

It’s the type of record you’d expect to see in one-club leagues like France and Germany, where Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich enjoy a near-monopoly on trophies and domestic doubles and trebles are just part of the job. So why are Chelsea so good in cup competitions? It goes in line with how the club has been run in the last two decades, one of “the show must go on” regardless of what’s going on. This is most evident at the moment given the sanctions placed on the club. Most others would fully fold under the strain but not Chelsea – their near-comeback in the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid is a further testament to this ability to block out the outside noise.

Another example of this is the club’s record when making a mid-season managerial change, and there has been many. Tuchel’s performance since taking over from Frank Lampard in January 2021 is the latest in a long line of impressive upturns at the club – the “new manager bounce” if you will. Bizarrely given European specialists Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti’s successful spells at the club, interims Avram Grant and Roberto Di Matteo are the other two men responsible for guiding Chelsea to Champions League finals. Both made domestic finals too, Di Matteo winning the FA Cup alongside European glory. Guus Hiddink and Rafael Benitez also tasted cup success in a similar fashion.

Continuity at the Club Has Not Come at Managerial Level but Tuchel Might Change This

The power base at the ownership and board level as well as a strong core of senior players, has been the route to success for Chelsea. No matter who the manager was, it always felt like Abramovich and his cronies were more important, as were John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba – the latter’s stunning finals goal record rather symbolic. For these players, sub in today the likes of Cesar Azpilcueta, Antonio Rudiger, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz – players who seem to thrive when the temperature is raised and the stakes are higher. Havertz is developing a penchant for big goals like his Ivorian predecessor – Romelu Lukaku is not.

Tuchel is currently bucking that trend somewhat, coming across as the true leader of the club in these uncertain times but it’s a bit of a first. Chelsea, even under some greats of the game, seemed to be a club like Real Madrid and Bayern, who churned out managers as often as they reached finals and competed for titles. United and Liverpool, clubs historically centred on “messiah” figure managers, are not.

Chelsea’s 26th Cup Final Takes Spotlight off Club’s Uncertain Future, but More Finals Are Not to be Bet Against

Who knows what the future holds for Chelsea? This FA Cup final will likely be the last game under the banner of the Abramovich era, the last before the new owners officially come in. It might lead to a change in the business model that has been so strange yet so successful, but it would be a brave man who’d bet against Chelsea continuing this finals record in years to come. Just one piece of advice: maybe don’t sub Kepa Arrizabalaga on if this final also goes to penalties

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