Every club has their secret ingredient, something that elevates them to seemingly untold highs when their backs are well and truly to the wall.
For Liverpool, just mention Istanbul and they look liable to turn around any deficit in a European tie. United know that Fergie Time is the real end of a game, as they score late goals time on time again.
To Chelsea their secret ingredient is chaos and it looks like their supply is empty after their 2-0 loss to Real Madrid in the quarter finals of the Champions League last night.
It was a frantic night that saw the Blues almost score through João Félix with less than two minutes on the clock. Then Vinícius Júnior broke the ball down to Karim Benzema and the striker tapped in from close range. Asensio wrapped things up with a powerful shot from outside the area, and now everyone is wondering is a comeback possible in London.
Classy finish from Asensio, Kroos-esque 🙌
Tie over for Chelsea?
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The spirit of 2012
Frank Lampard’s Blues went over dreaming of replicating 2012, when they repeatedly upset the odds on their way to winning the biggest trophy in club football for the first time ever.
They needed to turnaround a 3-1 deficit in the quarter finals against Napoli, get the better of reigning champions Barcelona, and beat Bayern Munich in their own stadium in the final.
It was a long, chaotic, road that ended with Didier Drogba slotting in the winning penalty at the Allianz Arena and Lampard lifting the trophy minutes later.
That entire season was fuelled with a sense of madness that seems to have a place at Stamford Bridge alongside the infamous Shed End.
Nothing sums up this feeling more than Lampard being their third manager of this season, and the club is going into the quarter finals while 11th in the Premier League and mathematically closer to relegation than top four.
Lampard can personally attest to this. He captained Chelsea in 2012 when the person in charge was interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, who also brought the FA Cup to Stamford Bridge that season.
He was sacked that November as Chelsea became the first Champions League holders to finish third in their group. Rafael Benítez was put in place until the end of the season, and he finished the year by winning the Europa League with Chelsea.
The Spaniard wasn’t popular in London, but he still departed with a medal around his neck and a place in the club’s history books.
One of the next coaches in that position was Thomas Tuchel and he won the Champions League in 2021 by beating a heavily fancied Manchester City team.
A tradition of chaos
For all of this success to even happen, Chelsea needed to beat Liverpool on the final day of the 2002-03 Premier League season at Stamford Bridge. This wasn’t because they needed to avoid relegation, they were actually battling to avoid bankruptcy.
The threat was so severe that General Charles Chandler Krulak, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was hired to give a motivational speech to the players before the game at the Royal Lancaster Hall. He talked about his experiences with the US military and facing the Vietcong and immediately got a reaction from the players.
Graeme Le Saux, as quoted in The Club by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg, said: “I wanted to abseil out of my room and carry out a military operation at Hyde Park.”
The game was valued at £20 million as Champions League prize money was at stake.
Trevor Birch, the club’s chief executive, even gave a motivation speech to the players before kick-off. He gave each player a note stressing the importance of the three points. The accountant and general’s words worked and Chelsea won 2-1.
That summer Roman Abramovich became owner of the club, and the rest is trophy laden history.
At least, until the Russian invasion of Ukraine led to the UK Government freezing the assets of the Russian oligarch. Chelsea were thrown into another storm, and fought through to reach their third consecutive FA Cup final. They were also narrowly knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, who scored twice in extra-time to get the better of their London rivals.
They are in a similar position right now, except Lampard is the caretaker manager in charge of a bloated squad that has won just three league games in 2023.
The saving grace through all of this was the hope of continental success, fuelled by the internal chaos that has given the club some of its greatest days. Now there is a lingering possibility of a comeback, because Chelsea know from their own history that they can do it with their own secret ingredient.