Chelsea fans have been warned by Thomas Tuchel it is going to take more than a summer to close the real gap with quadruple-chasing Liverpool. On the face of it, there does not seem to be more than a hair’s breadth between the two clubs after four draws in normal play over the course of the season.
It has been seven hours when the two teams have gone toe-to-toe as they did at Wembley in the FA Cup final on Saturday, with nobody emerging on top. Only the artificial lottery of penalties could separate them - and even then both shoot-outs have had to go to sudden death before a verdict could be reached.
But outside of direct competition, Liverpool have proved uncatchable and unmatchable as far Chelsea are concerned. Already 16 points separate the two teams this season with two games each still to go and it is now four years, when Chelsea last won the title, since Liverpool last finished below them in the table.
No wonder Tuchel is left pulling what is left of his hair out. “It’s maybe impossible, I have to say, maybe impossible,” he said. “They are improving their squad in every transfer window they have. It seems like we are losing key players. We are losing, of course, Antonio Rudiger, we’re losing Andreas Christensen. So this is tough and we already have a gap to close.”
Christensen was notable by his absence at Wembley - a personal decision not to play, it has been suggested rather than an injury the Chelsea medical staff were aware of. By the same token Romelu Lukaku might just as well have been injured.
The major outlay of last summer simply has not settled and seems to cause more problems when he is selected than when left to sit things out on the bench. His agent is said to be looking to set up a meeting with the prospective new owner so he can iron out personality clashes behind the scenes.
To that end, Tuchel has already beaten him to the punch. The German had lunch on the eve of the cup final with Todd Boehly, the LA Dodgers co-owner given the enviable status of “preferred bidder” after lodging a £4.25bn offer.
“We had lunch together but it was in the room where everybody was, like players and staff,” Tuchel said. “He was very friendly, very open and it was a very informal meeting over lunch. It was like half-an-hour, 40 minutes so it was not too detailed.
“It was just to get a feeling and say hello, and we talked more about baseball and basketball actually. It was not the moment, we will do this next week. The next few weeks.” The meeting was nevertheless long enough to convince Tuchel of one important factor. The American mogul shares his own ambition for where Chelsea can still get to eventually.
“He paid some money for the club, so I don’t think he is keen to drop the ambition,” Tuchel said. “That would be a big surprise, so no I don’t doubt this. We will share our opinion in more detail over the next weeks and I am sure he is as ambitious to build a competitive Chelsea for the highest level.”