Kepa vs Sarri bust-up was great car crash TV and is where football now sits as an entertainment industry

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Super Sunday isn’t what it was, is it? ‘Bang average Sunday’ might be more apt.

The sum total from two of the so-called biggest games of the season was 120 minutes of goalless football punctuated with a bolt from beyond for journalists everywhere when  keeper Kepa refused to leave the pitch in the last minute of Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.

Kepa stood firm by refusing to go off - and providing some belated entertainment in a poor Carabao Cup final
Chelsea keeper Kepa stood firm by refusing to go off – and providing some belated entertainment in a poor Carabao Cup final
AFP or licensors

In many ways, the whole sorry incident was better than a goal. For the media, anyway.

There is no doubt in my mind that Maurizio Sarri wanted to substitute Kepa and use Caballero as a super saver in the penalty shootout that Chelsea were clearly playing for.

But I also firmly believe that Sarri used the fake cramp situation to make the change easier on himself and hide behind an injury should Chelsea have lost the shootout. After all, he was taking off a £70m goalkeeper at a time when goalkeepers come in to their own.

Kepa’s refusal to budge and Sarri’s reaction was great car crash TV and it is where football now sits as an entertainment industry.

Maurizio Sarri clearly thought substitute keeper Willy Caballero would be a better choice for the penalties than Kepa, according to Dave Kitson
Chelsea boss  Maurizio Sarri clearly thought substitute keeper Willy Caballero would be a better choice for the penalties than Kepa, according to Dave Kitson
Reuters

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Terrible game, who cares? The interest and fallout around that one incident will keep newspaper printers turning long after anybody cares about which team lifted the 2019 Carabao Cup.

I might sound cynical, but I’ve been watching football morph in to its current state for years. I’ve seen the power shift from players to clubs and back to players again. I watched Carlos Tevez refuse to come on for Manchester City in the Champions League against Bayern Munich in 2011.

And for better or worse I’ve been a part of undermining managers too.

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I remember some of my time at Portsmouth under Steve Cotterill where the atmosphere was so poisonous that the entire team just dropped off the pace.

It had no belief in Steve’s approach whatsoever and responded in the time honoured footballers tradition of downing tools and waiting expectantly for the owners to make the inevitable change.

Players don’t exactly call a meeting and actively decide not to try for the manager, they simply stop responding to his instructions en masse.

David Luiz has a word with Chelsea keeper Kepa at the height of the astonishing saga
David Luiz has a word with Chelsea keeper Kepa at the height of the amazing saga
Reuters

The entire sorry episode culminated in a blazing row in the changing room at Derby County. We’d been absolutely battered in the first half and Steve lost it with us. I stood up and pointed the finger firmly back at Steve before the whole squad jumped in and separated us.

Referee Jonathan Moss had no power to force Kepa off when he said no to being substituted
Referee Jonathan Moss had no power to force Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa off when he said no to being substituted ahead of the penalty shootout
Getty – Contributor


Steve was right to have a pop but by then it was far too late in the day.

By that stage of his tenure the whole squad was so splintered that no manager in history could have reversed the club’s fortunes.

Just before we kicked off the second half the players gathered round the ball and tried to gee each other up. But Steve misread the situation and after the game accused us of publicly undermining him. It wasn’t true.

Even TV can misrepresent the truth.

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