Neville's line 'billion pound blue bottle jobs' will immortalize Chelsea's pain

Neville's line 'billion pound blue bottle jobs' will immortalize Chelsea's pain

Not all losses are equal, and no defeat in football is worse than a joke defeat.

“In extra time, it was Klopp's kids against £1bn Blue Bottle Jobs,” said Sky Sports co-commentator Gary Neville, succinctly and incontrovertibly establishing the dominant narrative of a surreal Carabao Cup final with just a Virgil van Dijk header. It settled into the far corner of Dorde Petrovic's net.

Not only did Liverpool beat Chelsea at Wembley (again), but they did so in a way that validated the culture of 'mental monsters' that Jurgen Klopp has cultivated – seemingly across Kirkby's age groups as well as the first team – over the past year. Nine years, while fatal flaws in the luxury Stamford Bridge investment project financed by Todd Bohle and Clearlake Capital over the past two years are mercilessly exposed.

At Wembley Stadium after the match, a desperate Mauricio Pochettino took up the task of pointing out the nuances in the narrative. The Chelsea coach said when asked about Neville's line: “I did not hear what he said, but if you compare the ages of the two groups, I think it is similar.” “Look, I have a good relationship with Gary. I don't know how I can take his opinion, but I respect his opinion.

“We are a young team. There is nothing to compare to Liverpool because they also finished with young players. It is impossible to compare, and he knows the dynamics are completely different. We were playing against Liverpool and Chelsea, and Chelsea and Liverpool, and I don't think it's fair to talk that way.”

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The youth versus experience dynamic at Wembley was not as clear-cut as Neville made clear. The average age of Liverpool players on the pitch is older than the average age of Chelsea players at the start of the match and at the start of extra time. Van Dijk, a 32-year-old who has now won 11 major titles, was the standout player throughout and netted two match-winning headers in the final, only one of which survived a VAR review.

Cole Palmer was rejected by Caoimhin Kelleher (Julian Feeney/Getty Images)

But the counter-argument becomes harder to sustain when the other team includes two 19-year-olds, Bobby Clarke and James McConnell, who have each played fewer than 10 professional games and another (Jayden Dans) who is making his second appearance for the first team. Chelsea undoubtedly lost to a lot of kids. The most important question is: Did they pack it?

Chelsea showed unmistakable signs of nervousness at Wembley. Axel Disasi twice sparked Liverpool's transitional attacks by fumbling the ball under minimal pressure. Malo Gusto, usually very confident, controlled passes straight out of play on several occasions. Levi Colwell attempted a pass to Ben Chilwell up front and had to be asked to calm down by Enzo Fernandes, who played sloppy passes with astonishing frequency.

Furthermore, Conor Gallagher faced an eerily similar combination of bad luck and composure in front of goal that befell fellow Cobham graduate Mason Mount against the same opponents at the same stadium in 2022.

Gallagher missed several chances (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

However, as time ticked down towards the end of the 90 minutes, it looked like Chelsea would win more, as Cole Palmer picked out a Liverpool side whose legs looked to have faded. At this point, Klopp made a decision that no other elite coach would have made: putting the fate of the major trophy in the hands of unproven youngsters rather than sitting back with experience and playing for penalties.

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His selection turned the Carabao Cup final into the spiritual sequel to Chelsea's bizarre 4-1 win over nine-man Tottenham Hotspur in November: a situation in which a convincing win is the only acceptable result and anything less brings utter humiliation. Pochettino had to lead his team through a tense, aimless 20 minutes that night before they overcame the fear of looking ridiculous – of being on the receiving end of a losing prank – and went on to win the game.

Klopp's “that's what we are, mate” moment appeared to have plunged Chelsea into a similar mental crisis at Wembley that lasted for most of extra time, and was exacerbated by their waning energy levels. At the end of the first half of their pathetic initial display into extra time, Chilwell, Disasi and Moses Caicedo could all be seen prostrate on the pitch and receiving attention for their convulsions.

Not losing has replaced winning as Chelsea's top priority. Pochettino said: “The team began to feel that penalty kicks might be in our favor,” acknowledging the weakness he suffered against this group of players in the aftermath of the match.

Pochettino's face sums up Chelsea's mood (Getty)

The finals determine the clubs, players and coaches who compete for them. Klopp has lost his fair share over the years but never through negativity, and it is this strict adherence to the idea of ​​who Liverpool are that will carry him today at Wembley. Chelsea's identity as expert finals winners began to wane in the final years of Roman Abramovich's ownership. That is now seven cup final defeats in their last eight visits to the National Stadium, and six in a row.

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Doubts will grow about Pochettino's ability to reverse this trend. During five years at Tottenham, he built impressive teams that couldn't win, and despite his professed emphasis on the power of positive energy, Chelsea were undone by Klopp's unrivaled mastery of psychological momentum.

Liverpool at full strength are much better than Chelsea, but they won the Carabao Cup Final not through superior talent, but superior mentality, coupled with an unmistakable sense of identity that binds the first team and academy together – in other words, things that Buhle and Clerlake have done that money cannot do. Simply buy.

“They need to feel pain,” Pochettino said of Chelsea's players. The pain of this humorous loss will be hard to shake, as it will be immortalized in Neville's harsh words.

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

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