BAKU, Azerbaijan — Underneath regular circumstances, the successful of a European closing would carry uncomplicated pleasure. There are many gray areas in soccer, all method of issues which you could’t be certain of. However lifting a European trophy ought to in concept solely carry optimistic feelings.
Chelsea will have fun tonight, however what’s going to they be pondering tomorrow?
This has a very unusual season at Stamford Bridge. The naked info do not counsel something apart from success: They completed third within the Premier League, solely behind the very best staff of this technology and the staff that solely misplaced to them by some extent; they reached the Carabao Cup closing and solely misplaced on penalties; and now they’ve gained the Europa League, thrashing Arsenal Four-1 in Baku with a terrific second-half show.
All of that ought to imply a wave of positivity washing over the entire membership, a season of simple success and optimism for the longer term. However in actuality, issues at Chelsea have by no means been extra unsure.
It is a staff that’s about to lose its finest participant after Eden Hazard confirmed, minutes after the ultimate whistle, that this recreation was virtually actually goodbye, as negotiations for his transfer to Actual Madrid now begin in earnest. It is a membership that is perhaps about to lose its supervisor, with Maurizio Sarri, not precisely the preferred coach of all time, probably on his means again to Italy. It is a membership on the cusp of a switch embargo, with holes to fill however no means of filling them.
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Removed from this being the beginning of much more success, it appears like Chelsea have climbed to the highest of the ladder solely to right away land on a snake and slide again to the underside once more. This has been a season of triumph, however the weirdest triumph conceivable.
And this closing was in all probability probably the most becoming means for a marketing campaign this odd to finish. All the pieces, from the huge hole between the pitch and the stands to the three-quarter-full stadium to the leisurely tempo of the sport earlier than the break, made this really feel extra like a preseason pleasant.
The primary half was so boring that the “highlights” bundle on the break featured the managers shaking fingers. About 10 minutes into the second half, a banner was unfurled within the stands with a message to UEFA written in huge letters. Would this be the large protest in opposition to the staging of the ultimate in a distant and geopolitically charged location? No, the banner learn: “We’re a part of soccer. Due to UEFA for the ultimate.” Curiouser and curiouser.
On the finish, UEFA bragged that the official attendance of 51,370 was the “third highest ever” for a Europa League closing. A barely much less spectacular means of placing it might be to level out that some 12,000 extra individuals watched the final time Arsenal performed on this stadium, in opposition to Qarabag within the group phases.
Arsenal gained Three-Zero that evening, however on this event, they may as effectively have taken the lead from lots of their supporters and never turned up. They have been poor within the first half and determined within the second, placing up solely probably the most token defence to Chelsea’s assaults and spurning the few possibilities they created.
Maurizio Sarri lifted the Europa League trophy on Wednesday. May he stroll away from Chelsea on Thursday? Shaun Botterill/Getty Pictures
This was a recreation essential to the Gunners’ rapid future, a membership in severe want of a rebuild who now do not have Champions League soccer with which to tempt any potential signings. Afterward, Unai Emery claimed this season has been a step in the correct path, but when so, it was an extremely small one.
As for Sarri, he would have been forgiven for greeting the victory with two center fingers, raised excessive within the air. After a season through which he has been vastly criticised, pretty and unfairly, he was in all probability entitled to take a couple of swings again. And in a way of talking, he did.
In his postmatch information convention, he was invited a variety of instances to vow his future to Chelsea however selected to not.
“The season completed one hour in the past,” he mentioned. “Tomorrow, I’ll start to talk to my membership. We have to converse, in fact. We have to know what the membership can do for me, what I can do higher for the membership. I feel that additionally the membership wants to talk with me.”
And when requested if he thought he deserved to remain, he mentioned: “I feel so, nevertheless it’s solely my opinion. My opinion just isn’t sufficient.”
In a means, this was traditional Chelsea, and certainly an ideal abstract of this season that Sarri was nonetheless dabbing his brow with a towel — mopping up sweat, or celebratory champagne, maybe — as he despatched not significantly delicate messages to his employers.
It’s barely troublesome to determine what’s going to occur from right here. The membership might resolve Sarri is just too unpopular, that they want another person to information them by way of a tough transitional season. They may resolve that altering managers is including one other layer of turmoil that they do not want.
As for Sarri, he undoubtedly is in a greater negotiating place if he needs to make any huge calls for and keep. Equally, he might resolve that the job is extra bother than it’s value and stroll away.
It is a membership who’ve now gained 16 trophies, three of them in Europe, within the 16 years since Roman Abramovich — who was current in Baku, after a season through which he has scarcely been seen at Stamford Bridge — purchased the membership. And in most of that point, they’ve been in some type of flux — stability considered pointless, chaos extra their factor. If uncertainty is what they need, they’re about to get an entire load of it.
On this evening, Chelsea are successful, European trophy winners after a very odd season. Tomorrow? Who is aware of? However you believe you studied they would not need it some other means.