Replacing Courtois was always going to be a monumental challenge. Sarri probably believed that he had secured the services of a keeper that would be his saviour in the form of Kepa Arrizabalaga. He even has keeper in his name, sort of. Well, it transpires that Kepa may end up being Sarri’s downfall after Chelsea’s loss in the League Cup final this weekend.
The Italian has been under mounting pressure following a terrible run of form that has seen his Chelsea side slip from title contenders to a team battling for a Champions League position with the resurgent Man Utd. This pressure came to a head recently after his side capitulated in their game against Man City losing 6-0. The team looked a shell of the side that defeated city 2-0 earlier in the season, that win supposedly marking their title intent.
Hand off the cup
Sunday was an opportunity for Sarri to re-endear himself to the Stamford Bridge faithful by claiming some much-needed silverware. His game plan was to stifle and it worked. The two teams exchanged a dire goalless draw and the bout was to be settled on penalties. Sarri’s tactical masterstroke was to use his “secret weapon” by subbing on penalty expert Cabellero. Well that was the plan
Kepa Arrizabalaga had a different agenda though. He refused to come off the pitch, shaking his finger as his under-siege manager. Sarri was incensed but remarkably backed down and let Kepa continue between the sticks. To his credit, he did stop Sane’s penalty but had a good chance with Aguero penalty and fluffed it. Eventually, City went on to win the shoot out and the cup.
A small subset of people claims that it is disrespectful to bring off a goalkeeper when there is an eminent penalty shoot out. Famously Lois Van gal pulled the same stunt for Holland and it proved successful. Since then it is becoming more commonplace.
Ultimately just like some outfield players are better at taking penalties. There are some goalkeepers that are better at saving them. Why not have the best one between the sticks? There is no doubt that Kepa is a better option in goal. He has played there all season. Is his ego really so fragile that he couldn’t stand to let someone else replace him for just the last part of the game?
Kepa’s actions, and indeed Sarri’s reactions speak volumes about the situation at the club. It is clear player power rules at Chelsea. Like with the recent situation with Pogba at Man Utd we are seeing more of players playing a massive role in the fate of managers. But is that fair? I mean if your boss is treating you unfairly it would seem unfair to criticise you for not giving 100% at work. Isn’t that effectively what the likes of Pogba are doing?
Either way many believe that Kepa has effectively signed Sarri’s death warrant at Chelsea. And with a potential transfer ban and a wantaway Hazard at the Bridge, it could be a long time before the Blues are real contenders again. If Sarri is sacked or resigns and you have to believe that is probably going to happen, Chelsea would be wise to start investing play time into their talented youth scheme.
They have Christensen, Zouma, Loftus Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi all with bright futures but they need a stage to call their own. With time and support, they could emulate the positive changes that have happened at teams like Spurs who have put trust in younger players and seen it pay dividends creating stars like Harry Winks and more importantly Harry Kane.