The former Chelsea left-back shared his analysis ahead of Friday’s final.
The prestigious FA Cup finals will kick off later this week on Friday, 14 May. Competing against each other first will be Chelsea and Liverpool. With both teams having gone through their fair share of ups and downs — inconsistent form and ownership changes for the Blues and a draw to Tottenham Hotspurs and hectic schedule for The Reds, the game promises to be an interesting one. Ahead of these fixtures, former Irish international and Chelsea left-back Terry Phelan interacted with the media in a group call arranged by Sony Sports Network. Here’s what he had to say:
Comparing the workload for Chelsea and Liverpool
First up, Terry Phelan was gave his opininion on the workload of two sides — with hopes of a quadruple for Liverpool and this being the only possible trophy for Chelsea this time.
Comparing the same, he began, “Yeah, it could be. The physical aspect of this is what they’ve been going through. They’ve had some difficult games obviously. The game in Europe and the league specifically Tottenham Spurs which was a difficult one. But you’ve got time to rest now. Liverpool being Liverpool at this time — they’re a little bit of a machine. They know how to win games, especially with the different feel they have now as well as (Luis) Diaz joining them. With Chelsea I think, they’ve had a bad result on the weekend.”
He added, “But I think at present, both teams will have time to rest and reserve their energies. For Chelsea, it’s make or break essentially so it’s a great chance to win a cup and for Liverpool they have it all to do. Liverpool though will not want any injuries with the league and Champions League finals as well to go. I think they’ll take it one game at a time and take the FA Cup very seriously.”
Importance of the game for Chelsea with new owners on board
Around three days back Chelsea announced the agreement of terms with a new ownership group, headed by Todd Boehly of Clearlake Capital. This came after months of deliberation since former owner Roman Abramovich’s dismissal due to sanctions imposed as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. Regarding this, Terry Phelan was asked to share his opinion on the importance of this game and what it would mean for Chelsea with such changes.
On this, he elaborated, “It’s a massive game for Chelsea. You’ve got to the final and it’s a chance to win silverware. I think with the ongoing saga, now it’s been finalized that there’s a takeover bid. So that can now take a backseat and they can concentrate on this game. It’s a massive one for both teams for different reasons. I wouldn’t say Chelsea have had a bad season. They just missed out marginally in the Champions League. (Real) Madrid being Madrid, did what they do; the same with Manchester City too.
“But I think Chelsea will go into this game with confidence. They’ll be playing against a team who are on a roll at this point of time. But you can break Liverpool down which is what Tottenham did at the weekend even though (Jurgen) Klopp said he didn’t like the way they played. Well, it’s a game of football and who decides how to play is only the manager. I think Thomas Tuchel has done a great job since he’s arrived and the takeover bid was out of his hands but now that’s fixed. So, I think it’s a chance for them to win a competition which they regularly win.”
How does Tuchel approach this game?
Alongside the FA Cup, things have started to heat up in the Premier League’s top four race as well — particularly for Chelsea who despite a strong lead initially are now just a point or two away from their competitor in Tottenham Hotspurs and Arsenal. Hence, with stakes at such a high, Phelan then spoke about the situation and what he felt would be going on through head coach Thomas Tuchel’s mind.
He stated, “That’s why they get such managers in. For me, he’s got to go in there with an open mind. He can’t worry about the Champions League spot because he is playing in the FA Cup final. So, it’s a chance for Chelsea to get silverware. What will come after will come after. They’ve still got games to cement that fourth spot. At the end of the day, he’ll be looking at this game as another chance for silverware – for Chelsea – for him. He’s won the Champions League and a few other honours but I think now, this is a big one — for the club and supporters considering what has gone on.
“I’m sure he’s not going to look at this game in a way that he thinks about the game next week in the EPL. I think he’ll go full throttle. He’s got the players to perform both in the EPL and the FA Cup. I think it’ll be a very entertaining game and both teams will go at it because it is silverware at the end. That’s why coaches are brought in and no matter what anyone says about the FA Cup, it’s a piece of silverware in your cabin for the achievements you’ve made over the season. But yes, he will have an eye on the injuries as well. However, again, he does have a big enough squad for both.”
On Chelsea’s current form and transfers situation
Of late, Chelsea have been going through a phase of hiccups both in terms of their form as well as multiple transfer rumours as well as confirmations — including some of their strongholds in defence. Regarding this, Phelan was then asked about how he thought it would affect their morale, if at all.
To this, he replied, “If you look at the psychological part of the game, will the players give their 100%? I think they’ll do. As Chelsea players, they’ve had a sticky patch but everybody has a sticky patch. So you have to think from this perspective. What has gone on with Chelsea in the last few months?T It hasn’t been good but now all of that’s been put to bed. They’ve got owners and a consortium coming in so now it’s up to the players to focus now and get one back over Liverpool.
“Yes, they’ve not been in form but they’re still a great team with world-class players. Yes, players will be going at the end of the season but there’s nothing you can do about that. For example, (Antonio) Rudiger is a big one and so how do you replace him? But he’s not going to go easy. He’s going to work hard on the pitch for Chelsea to win the FA Cup. It’s the oldest competition and the world and everyone wants to win it. Everything else is in the past and once the kick-off whistle is blown during the final, it’s all about what they’ve done in the training for the game.”
Expected strategies from both sides
With both sides and their world-class German managers constantly showcasing their brilliant tactics, it was time to find out an expert’s opinion on how they’d execute things once again — this time in the FA Cup finals, of course.
Tactically analyzing the duo of Klopp and Tuchel, Terry Phelan expressed, “Well, we know how both play. We know how Liverpool play because we watch them week in and week out. Their key player is Diaz even though he’s just come on. He just changes the game with his pace, power, trickery and speed. He’s got a good eye for goal. I think it’s going to be a cagey affair. I think the midfield is key and whoever gets on top of this area and supplies the frontmen is going to be key. Both sides’ full-backs like going high and wide. Salah and Mane like to open up the wide spaces for their full-backs to attack.
“I think Chelsea should be aiming to stop that. I think Chelsea may drop deep to counterattack. They have wonderful players and if Lukaku is playing, you’ve got to get the ball to him quickly and effectively in those areas down the channels — pulling the centre backs and running through the middle. If Chelsea can do that, not give away the ball stupidly and be tight at the back, they’ve got a chance. Liverpool beat them narrowly in the Carabao Cup final. They’ll want to show their new owners that they mean business.”
On the Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Reece James debate
Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James have virtually sealed their positions as two of the best right-backs in the world at the moment. Pertinent to the same, the Irishman was asked to vent out his opinion on how them clashing against each other would play out, especially in the context of this final.
Answering the same, Terry Phelan opined, “Everyone knows the wonderful attributes that Trent has but if Chelsea have to exploit them it will be at that right-back spot. That’s because I do think Trent gets caught a little bit going forward and he’s not the best in the recovery moments. If they play wingbacks, Reece James will be playing up and down. But at the end, James has got to contend with Mane on that side along with (Andrew) Robertson coming forward. He’s probably going to have his hands more full than Trent. With Liverpool, it’s how you stop their full-backs going off high and wide. Chelsea will probably go with that 5-3-2 formation just to nullify those wide areas. So it’s going to be interesting but I think Reece James will have the hardest job with Mane and Robertson coming forward while Trent — the easiest.”
The favourites for this final
Further, Terry Phelan revealed his favourites and predictions for this promising final. Joyously, he quipped, “Well, you’d pick Liverpool because of the roll they’re on and because of the form Chelsea are in. You’d be mad not to pick Liverpool as the favourites. Yes, things didn’t go right during the weekend but Liverpool are Liverpool. They’ve got wonderful players. Diaz can come on and change the game. Basically, they have an array of talent with Salah, Mane, their full-backs and so forth. So, I’d definitely put them as favourites.
“However, we all love an underdog and I hope my ex-club Chelsea can get over the line and bring joy back to the supporters and Chelsea Football Club with what’s been going on. Obviously, they’ve got to get over a machine that’s been crushing everyone. Nonetheless, it’s going to be an interesting one that I can’t wait for. Essentially, my heart says Chelsea but my head says Liverpool so I’d go for a 2-1 in favour of Liverpool.”
On fatigue as a factor for Chelsea
Alongside Liverpool’s consecutive fixtures, Chelsea too have had similar problems considering the humongous total number of games and minutes played over the year. When asked about fatigues as a result and how he saw it as a potential factor to be counter for this game, Terry Phelan responded, “If you look at the physical corner, it’s just preparation. You’re playing two games a week and it’s just preparation and you rejuvenate your body. With the sports science and tech around strength and conditioning, players are just resting now. Yes, it’s physically and mentally demanding. But now I think players can cope with it.”
“If you’re a professional football player and want to play in some of the biggest competitions in the world, you’ve go to be fit. Also, now with the money on sports science, medicine, doctors, physios, etc. I think they’ll be in fine form. At the end of the day, you’re adrenaline gets you through these games,” Terry Phelan concluded.
Watch The Emirates FA Cup Final – Liverpool vs. Chelsea LIVE on SONY TEN 2 (English), SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) & SONY TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels on 14th May 2022, at 9:15 pm IST.