In the 2022 FA Cup final, where Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool took on fellow German Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, observers may have noticed one unusual detail: Chelsea were playing in yellow kits, rather than their trademark blue. Football purists will be unhappy with this change, as teams normally always play in their home kit for games played on neutral ground, such as cup finals, unless there happens to be a kit clash between the two clubs.
With the Reds playing in, well, red, why did the Blues turn to yellow for this heavyweight clash at Wembley? Well, we will look at some possible explanations for this change in this article, as well as taking a look at the west London club’s history of playing in yellow, and some of their best moments in this alternative colour.
Why Did the Blues Choose Yellow for the Final?
Whilst Chelsea boss Tuchel gave no official reason for the change at the time, it has been suggested that it was a move made out of superstition. Or maybe it was just to try anything to get Romelu Lukaku to actually want to play for them! Given it seems ever so slightly more likely, we will focus on superstition.
In the two previous cup finals that the Blues had featured in, they had played in their traditional blue home kit, and lost both. These were the 2021 FA Cup final, where Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by Leicester City (who were, as it happens, wearing their non-blue away kit), and the 2022 Carabao Cup final, in which the Blues lost to Klopp’s Liverpool on penalties in a classic red v blue clash. Because of the club’s consistently poor form in domestic cup finals, perhaps Tuchel believed that changing kit would change Chelsea’s fortunes; and he certainly seemed to think it would, as he declared before kick-off, “We will win in yellow”. We are afraid you didn’t, Thomas.
There are also two historical reasons why the Blues may have chosen to don the yellow strip for this final. Firstly, in the 2009 FA Cup final, where Chelsea were victorious over Everton, the two sides had to do a coin toss to decide which of the blue-wearing clubs would need to change kits, and Chelsea lost. Rather than choosing their black away kit, the west London outfit elected to wear their all-yellow third kit. This proved lucky on the day, as the Blues won 2-1, though it might not have seemed that way when Louis Saha scored the earliest goal in FA Cup final history to give the Toffees the lead.
Although not enforced this time, maybe the club believed that a return to yellow would grant them the same luck as 2009. A second possible explanation for yellow-gate is that it was influenced by Thomas Tuchel’s tenure as Borussia Dortmund boss. When his Dortmund side won the DFB-Pokal, German football’s premier cup competition, in 2017, they were wearing their trademark black and yellow kit, and who knows, maybe ex-Dortmund man Christian Pulisic could be spurred on by the familiarity of the colour. Or, maybe it’s just a kit…
How Did the FA Cup Final Go?
Maybe it was just a kit! The final was, unfortunately, another bitter disappointment for the Blues, as they lost 6-5 on penalties, after the game had remained goalless for 120 minutes. This defeat meant that Chelsea set a record that they likely won’t put on the club website: they became the first team to lose three consecutive FA Cup finals. It was a rather uneventful and underwhelming football match, to say the least. The two sides only managed two shots on target each in 120 minutes, as both teams desperately struggled to create concrete chances. Hardly a modern classic, other than being a classic example of a big game failing to live up to expectations!
In the penalty shootout, the boys in yellow quickly gave the Reds the upper hand, as captain, Cesar Azpilicueta, missed Chelsea’s second spot kick. After scoring their first four penalties, it seemed as if victory was guaranteed for Liverpool, as Sadio Mane stepped up to take the winning penalty. However, Edouard Mendy produced a sharp save to deny his compatriot, leaving the game hanging in the balance, as Jorginho had previously made it 4-4.
The shootout then went to sudden death, with Hakim Ziyech and Diogo Jota both converting from the spot to make it five apiece. Next, up stepped Mason Mount, and this is where the yellow luck ran out: the England international saw his penalty saved by Alisson. This then allowed Liverpool defender, Kostas Tsimikas, to send Mendy the wrong way, and secure victory for the Reds, leaving the Blues-in-yellow with yet another disappointing cup final to contemplate.
Ultimately, we cannot know for sure why Chelsea opted to wear the yellow kit. Whilst breaking a bad spell in blue and recalling a past win in yellow are plausible explanations for the move, it is also distinctly possible their motivations were commercial. Selling replica shirts around the world is a substantial income generator for big football clubs. The home kit is invariably the most popular and the biggest seller, with the away kit second. However, a nice boost in exposure for the third kit in a match that is shown around the globe would surely help it sell better. Even if it was yellow! But, maybe we’re just cynical.
When Did Chelsea First Wear Yellow?
According to Chelsea’s website, “When you look back at every notable era in Chelsea history, yellow kits have been part of the tapestry.” But when did the Blues first wear yellow? Well, the club’s first foray into yellow kits was way back in the 1963/64 season, when the west London giants introduced a new yellow third kit, complete with blue trim. This largely set the tone for the club’s future yellow kits, all of which have typically featured some sort of blue colouration.
Since the 1960s, yellow has become a popular club colour, whether that be as a third or away strip. In the 2000s, Chelsea had six yellow kits, with the bright colour being a particular favourite of Adidas, the club’s kit maker at the time. However, since the club partnered with Nike in 2017, there has been a decline in yellow kits, with the new kit manufacturer so far only producing two yellow strips: the 2018/19 and 2021/22 away kits.
Have Chelsea Worn Yellow in Other Key Games?
We have already covered the Blues’ victory in yellow over Everton in the 2009 FA Cup final, but in what other big games have they worn their alternative colour? We will take a look at a couple below.
1965 League Cup Final
Having emerged as a popular alternative colour for the Blues in the 1960s, the club’s yellow kits were very much on display in the second leg of the 1965 League Cup final, as Chelsea lifted the trophy, defeating Leicester City. Since both teams played in blue, Chelsea wore their traditional blue strip in the home leg at Stamford Bridge, before opting for yellow for the return fixture. Having won the first leg 3-2, the west London side were in pole position, and managed to play out a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Leicester, securing the trophy, which was only the second major honour in their history.
Everton 3-6 Chelsea, 2014/15
Chelsea’s 2014/15 campaign was a special one, both on the pitch and in the dugout: Jose Mourinho was back, Diego Costa was on fire, Eden Hazard was unplayable, and the Blues lifted the Premier League with apparent ease. They went on to win the league by eight points and only lost three games all season.
The match that really set the tone for this momentous campaign has to be the club’s third league game, where they took on Everton at Goodison Park. The Blues, wearing yellow, tore Everton apart, winning 6-3 in a fast and furious, not to mention thrilling, fixture that saw five goals in 10 minutes in the second half. Chelsea were rampant, with Diego Costa at his very best, and this convincing victory helped to maintain the club’s fearsome early season run of form that saw them unbeaten in their first 14 matches.