As Liverpool and Chelsea prepare to dispute the FA Cup final on Saturday afternoon, a strong debate is raging about whether their respective seasons can be defined as successes or failures. There was a time when leading a team out at Wembley was enough of an answer in itself.But the weights and measures have changed. League position, above all finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League, assumed a greater value to clubs than making a priority of playing in what was once the most prestigious fixture in the English football calendar.
Liverpool are eighth in the table and haven't finished there since the 1993-1994 campaign. Their record at home is the worst in 63 years. Yet, they have still won the Carling Cup, and have a chance to add luster to that underappreciated trophy by hoisting the FA Cup for the eighth time.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are sixth. They haven't finished outside the top four in a decade. Should they win it, Chelsea could then do a quite incredible 'double' too by triumphing over Bayern Munich to lift their first ever Champions League crown.
Glory is still to be had for both clubs. Depending on who prevails, it would be hard to deny them the claim to a fine campaign in spite of their league positions. While a Carling Cup and an FA Cup still might not rank among Liverpool's greatest ever campaign hauls, and if everything goes to plan for Chelsea and they win the remaining competitions in which they're participating, it would be hard to dispute that this was anything other than their best on record.
Both of their seasons have been memorably paradoxical: poor in the League but good in the cups — perhaps because they've been seeking redemption.