'Billion pound bottle jobs' - The only way Chelsea can shake Carabao Cup humiliation

Sam McGuire
Sam McGuire
  • Updated: 28 Feb 2024 11:44 GMT
  • 4 min read
Gary Neville called Chelsea "billion-pound bottle jobs"

“It’s Klopp's kids against the blue billion-pound bottle-jobs.”

And just like that, the Chelsea project, a project they have invested so much time and money into, was given a tag that will stick with them for the foreseeable future. There’s a chance it follows that particular group of players around for the rest of their lives.

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It was a throwaway comment made by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville just moments after the Blues conceded an extra-time goal in the Carabao Cup final. It captured the situation perfectly though.

Chelsea, into their first final of the Todd Boehly era, faced a depleted Liverpool team. The Reds finished the game with 18-year-old Jayden Danns in attack and 19-year-olds James McConnell and Bobby Clark in midfield. Jarrell Quansah, a 21-year-old making just his 20th appearance for the Reds, replaced Ibrahima Konate to partner Virgil van Dijk in defence.

This was a Liverpool squad without a host of first-teamers. It was a squad that had played just days prior in the Premier League to retain their spot at the top. It was a group of weary players supplemented by inexperience. And yet Chelsea and their squad made up of big-money signings couldn’t find a way past the Reds.


Mauricio Pochettino tried to defend his players in his post-match press conference, saying: “I didn’t hear what Gary [Neville] said, but if you compare the age of the two groups, I think it is similar.

“I have a good relationship with Gary and I don’t know if that’s how I can take this opinion. But I respect his opinion. We made a few changes with [Conor] Gallagher and [Ben] Chilwell in extra time. But it is true we didn’t keep the energy of how we finished the second half. I don’t know how you can describe this situation. But I feel proud. I feel proud of the players, I think they made a big effort.

“We are a young team and it is nothing to compare with Liverpool just because they finished with also a few young players. He knows the dynamics are completely different. I think it’s not fair to talk in this way, if he said that.”

Mykhailo Mudryk in the Carabao Cup final
© IMAGO - Mykhailo Mudryk in the Carabao Cup final

Chelsea stuck with embarrassing tag

Chelsea are 11th in the Premier League after an inconsistent campaign and host Leeds United in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday. It will be an opportunity to right a few wrongs, but this game won’t have an impact on their legacy, not like the Carabao Cup final defeat did.

Jamie Carragher said as much on Monday Night Football: “That line will stick until they win something big. I’ll tell you why I think that. I came into a Liverpool team in 1997. In 1996 they lost a cup final to Manchester United and that team were christened the Spice Boys. That tag is still with that team today. Spice Boys. This tag for Chelsea that Gary’s given them will stick until they win something big and unfortunately, whether you think it is right or wrong, they’re the only ones who can change it.”

And Neville expanded on his statement, saying: “I could smell the fear in Chelsea from the very first minute of extra-time. Liverpool fans were singing that song for five minutes. They could smell the blood. They could smell the fear in those blue shirts.”

I could smell the fear in Chelsea from the very first minute of extra-time
- Gary Neville

These sorts of things aren’t just social media soundbites either. This loss will linger. It will haunt them as a group. It will follow them as a club. Just look at how this Arsenal team is discussed.

They challenged for the title last season but imploded at the end of the campaign. They’re doing well again, and are in a three-way fight for the title, but everyone keeps mentioning what happened during the 2022/23 campaign. The Liverpool team of 2013/14 is viewed as bottlers having collapsed at the end of that particular season.

For Chelsea to exorcise these demons, they need a run of success with this group. They need domestic cup wins, a European title and probably even a Premier League title challenge, at the bare minimum. The first cup success will be the big one. It will get them over the mental block and the floodgates could then open. For now, though, they are the billion-pound bottle jobs and they’ll be viewed as such.

Read more about: Premier League, Chelsea

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