Everyone in football universally condemned the farcical events at Wembley yesterday during the Carabao cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City. If you have been on the moon over the weekend, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted near the end of extra time. In fact the young Spanish keeper did more than just that, he undermined his manager and showed the whole world if we actually needed telling that player power at Stamford Bridge and in fact in the top divisions of football is very much alive and well.
Take away all the distractions at Chelsea with their manager, Maurizio Sarri for one minute although it probably is relevant. Let us look at what was going on for those crazy couple of minutes.
Sarri had decided to replace Kepa as he appeared to be struggling to complete the game. There may have been some gamesmanship too in that replacement goalkeeper, Willy Cabalerro won the trophy for Manchester City saving three penalties against Liverpool in 2016 during that seasons penalty shootout. Did Sarri want Cabalerro to repeat his heroics? Cabalerro may have that inside knowledge on City’s penalty takers? Either way, the manager had made his mind up, the substitution should have taken place and that would be the end of it.
However, when Kepa flatly refused to come off he stuck two fingers up to his manager and everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club. Now I am no fan of the Londoners and player power at Stamford Bridge is nothing new but what occurred was an embarrassment.
Firstly, where is the respect? The respect to the manager, supporters and fellow players including Cabalerro? We all hear about a goalkeepers union, maybe that does not apply to Kepa? Whilst everyone was looking at Sarri and his astonishment at what his keeper was doing, I paid attention to Gianfranco Zola. Zola is a legend of the game and certainly one at Chelsea. An unassuming polite man who had a gift with the ball at his feet, a gentleman. Even Zola was gesticulating to Kepa to come off and could not believe what was happening. So Kepa not only stuck two fingers up at Sarri he did it to the legend Zola.
Secondly, where was Chelsea’s captain, Cesar Azpilicueta in all of this? Nowhere to be seen which speaks volumes about Chelsea and about the role of captains in the modern game. Within the team should be leaders. Men who will run over hot coals for the side, who can put an arm around one player yet grip another by the shirt and get him to pull his finger out. That does not necessarily have to be the captain but he should be there or abouts when things like this are taking place.
As I fill up with nostalgia and recall the likes of Bryan Robson, Steve McMahon, Roy Keane, Tony Adams and Stuart Pearce in their pomp I am acutely aware that those players do not exist anymore. The armband means nothing in top flight football these days and the game is a worst place for it.
Remember Roy Keane standing up for Gary Neville in the tunnel at Highbury? Of course you do, immense leadership and loyalty shown to one of his own. So where were Chelsea`s so called leaders? With the exception of David Luiz who made a half hearted attempt to speak to Kepa the sign of no navy blue shirts going to the young keeper and telling him to fall in line spoke volumes. Players only think of themselves and it showed for all to see yesterday on the biggest stage.
Watching this all play out made me think back to the earlier years of the Roman Abramovic era when players like John Terry went running to the owner to complain about their manager knowing the owner would listen and act. Then I recall Chelsea players pulling their tripe out for Jose Mourinho in his second spell at the club to then months later down tools and he was gone before Christmas. They did the same to Conte. Snakes the lot of them.
To cap off the embarrassment everyone involved put out statements saying it was all a misunderstanding which no one believed. Does this club think we are all stupid and would buy this rubbish pumped out via the media? Sadly, player power wins everytime and no doubt Kepa will be back in goal for the next Chelsea game and nothing will change.
What a mess.