Hope for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea? How the Kepa incident could work in the Italian's favour

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 26 February 2019, 10:40

Maurizio Sarri’s public humiliation at Wembley may be looked back upon as a landmark moment in player power.

It may also have earned Chelsea’s downtrodden manager a stay of execution in the most unlikely manner.

When the world’s most expensive goalkeeper insisted HE and not the head coach would decide whether he was fit enough to play in the Carabao Cup Final - football held its breath.

Open mutiny on the pitch legitimises the claims that Sarri has committed the cardinal sin of ‘losing the dressing room’ and there is no way back from that.

Yet a much improved performance from the rest of the Chelsea players, an outpouring of sympathy for beleaguered Sarri and a remarkable response from the club itself suggests there is hope yet that the ninth full time manager to serve under owner Roman Abramovich may yet survive.

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No sooner had the final whistle been sounded at Wembley than Chelsea’s PR wallahs swung into action and dragged Spanish speaking Kepa in front of the media.

They made sure there was a presence from the English press too, recording every word of Kepa’s contrition even if he did stop short of an apology.

It was all a misunderstanding and Kepa insists he would never act in such a way towards a manager, even unshaven Sarri who wears a tracksuit like a set of shapeless surgical scrubs and who looks every inch the man who lists smoking 60-a-day as a hobby.

 

Chelsea did not need to act in this way. Were they actively looking to give their latest incumbent the chop this would have been a handy little episode to file among the other failures of a relatively new manager who feels and looks like he has been around much longer.

It was Kepa’s turn to suffer the embarrassment with cowed words and a plea for forgiveness as team-mates rounded on him for being disrespectful to the gaffer.

David Luiz went public on it and joined several others who admit their mate between the posts put his foot in it with an act of gross insubordination in the most public of circumstances.

Legendary former Chelsea captain John Terry echoed Luiz’s sentiments that when your number is up on the touchline light board a player should go off regardless.

The decision to wheel Kepa out and parade him as the villain of the piece is to be applauded. It will have come from the highest levels at Stamford Bridge.

There was no measly act to protect a £71.6 million superstar to polish his ego at the expense of the manager which has so often been the case in modern footballer who commands so much power from top to bottom at a club.

Players sell shirts and put bums on seats. Managers don’t and so often the harsh reality is that the clubs put the athletes first.

When former boss Jose Mourinho fell out with his players, he got the bullet and the club’s then director of football Michael Emenalo offered the excuse of a ‘palpable discord’ between the players and manager as the reason for his dismissal.

Not this time though and it’s a moment to savour that maybe, just maybe Chelsea have made a stand when it comes to players’ in-sub-ordination. Geddit?

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