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Chelsea had younger starting XI vs. Liverpool – but that doesn’t tell the true story

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Sunday’s Carabao Cup final brought Jurgen Klopp an eighth trophy as Liverpool manager as his inexperienced side saw off Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

It was a sixth consecutive defeat in domestic cup finals for Chelsea and here, the PA news agency looks at the noteworthy statistical implications of the match.

 

Trophy haul

Klopp has won seven different honours with Liverpool, with Virgil van Dijk’s extra-time winner meaning the League Cup is the first trophy his side have lifted more than once.

Victory over Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final brought his first trophy and the following season saw Liverpool win the UEFA Super Cup, the Club World Cup and then the Premier League.

A domestic cup double in 2021-22, both in penalty shoot-outs against Chelsea after goalless finals, allowed them to add the 2022 Community Shield.

An eighth different prize could yet come in this season’s Europa League, a competition in which Liverpool lost the 2015-16 final to Sevilla at the end of Klopp’s debut season.

Sunday was Liverpool’s record 10th League Cup win.

 

Klopp’s kids

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Virgil van Dijk captain of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Much was made of the youth of the Liverpool team that ended the game but Chelsea too are in a rebuilding phase – their finishing XI actually had a slightly younger average age than their Liverpool counterparts, 23 years and 77 days to 24 years and 172 days.

Liverpool brought on Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns for, respectively, their ninth, seventh and second senior appearances, while Jarell Quansah was playing only his 20th Reds game and 36th in senior football.

Van Dijk, though, lifted the total senior appearances of their finishing XI to 1,670, compared to Chelsea’s 1,513, with Joe Gomez joining him above 200 club appearances as Liverpool totalled 817 by that measure to Chelsea’s 371.

The key difference is the method of acquiring those players. While Liverpool finished with five academy products on the pitch, and started another in Conor Bradley, Chelsea’s were largely acquired in Todd Boehly and co’s billion-pound spending spree.

The Blues XI that finished the game cost a reported £466million in transfer fees, with Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo both £100m-plus signings and every outfield player bar homegrown pair Trevoh Chalobah and Levi Colwill costing £25m or more.

Van Dijk accounts for just over half of the £148m cost of Liverpool’s XI.

 

Final destination

Gary Neville, on co-commentary duty for Sky, labelled Chelsea “billion-pound bottle jobs” after Van Dijk’s winner. And while the Blues won the 2021 Champions League and 2019 Europa League, they have lost six successive domestic finals since lifting the 2018 FA Cup.

Sunday’s setback followed in a near-identical vein to Liverpool’s 2021-22 cup double, with Van Dijk staving off the prospect of another penalty shoot-out.

Kostas Tsimikas, whose corner set up that goal, scored the winning kick in the FA Cup final two years ago while the League Cup was a nightmare for Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was substituted on for the shoot-out but conceded to all 11 Liverpool players – including goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher – before blazing his own penalty over the bar.

That echoed 2019’s confusion over Maurizio Sarri’s attempt to substitute Kepa off before the start of the shoot-out. He saved from Leroy Sane but let a weak Sergio Aguero effort under him as Manchester City won 4-3.

Youri Tielemans settled the 2021 FA Cup final in Leicester’s favour, a year after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double earned Arsenal a 2-1 win over Chelsea. Christian Pulisic’s early opener was Chelsea’s only goal in the six finals.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino also lost both his finals with former club Tottenham, in the 2019 Champions League – against Liverpool – and the 2015 League Cup.