Chelsea vs Manchester City: Maurizio Sarri has no control over his players as City take step towards quadruple

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City (3-4 on penalties): City retained a trophy for the first time in their history as Chelsea's game finished with a bizarre stand-off between Kepa and Sarri

Jack Watson
Sunday 24 February 2019 17:33 GMT
Sarri says Chelsea going through 'difficult moment'

1. Sarri has no control over his players

What an extraordinary moment. Having gone down with an injury twice late in extra time, Kepa’s number was up and penalty hero Willy Caballero was ready to come on. However, the Spanish goalkeeper refused to come off and won a tense stand-off with his manager.

Things got ugly as Sarri raged on the touchline - and quite rightly given the lack of respect Kepa was showing.

In a fit of anger, the under-pressure Chelsea manager appeared to walk down the tunnel before turning around and returning to his post.

Kepa got his way and should really have done better to stop Sergio Aguero’s penalty from going in but did not get a strong enough hand to a fairly tame effort. However, he made a crucial save to deny Leroy Sane to put Chelsea back on level terms after Jorginho’s effort was saved.

2. Manchester City remain on course for a historic quadruple

Pep Guardiola continued to show the upmost respect for the competition in naming a strong starting XI.

It was his first trophy as Manchester City manager and it is a competition he highly rates, and this was the first time the club has retained a trophy in their history.

Raheem Sterling, who grew up in the shadow of the Wembley arch, was the match winner in the penalty shoot-out. His stunning penalty marked his outstanding performances in this cup this season.

3. Sarri offers glimpse of plan b

It was not the swashbuckling football that he was meant to bring to Chelsea, but Sarri offered a glimpse of what his alternative football might bring.

Maurizio Sarri offered a glimpse of a second plan (PA)

Something had to change after his Chelsea side were thrashed 6-0 by City two weeks ago.

Chelsea began the game with more intelligence and poise off the ball rather than pressing high or looking to take the game to their superior opponents.

The result was an incredibly uneventful game, especially the first half, but the alternative, perhaps, was a potential return of the chaos at the Etihad a fortnight ago.

Chelsea sat tight and grew into the game as it aged; they may even feel they should have opened the scoring with both Pedro and N’Golo Kante failing to make the most of good opportunities.

Sarri’s side may well have started the game with a win in a penalty shoot-out their best chance of lifting silverware, but they were at times the much better side.

4. Is it time for football to introduce a sin bin?

It’s not a particularly hot take on the laws of the game and the Football Association are already trailing it, but this game was perhaps further evidence that football may need to introduce a sin bin punishment.

There were two particular examples from the game that stand out as the kind of offence where a yellow card simply is not enough, while it was not serious enough to warrant a red card. Antonio Rudiger bundled over Kevin De Bruyne on the counter-attack and then cynically fouling David Silva from behind. A yellow card was the right decision but it felt shallow. Then Jorginho made absolutely no attempt to play the ball and barged Sterling to the ground after the City winger had knocked it past him. Again, a yellow card was correct in terms of the laws but was an insufficient punishment.

On the topic of the officiating, the VAR trial phase remains far from perfect. Hazard was flagged for offside after collecting Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s through pass and running through on goal. On first viewing it looked tight. The replays showed he was level.

The instruction given to assistant referees is to keep the flag down if there is any doubt. Clearly someone did not get the memo.

5. Otamendi raises his game in wake of increased competition

As with every position in this ludicrous City team, there is an impressive amount of talent in central defence. Vincent Kompany appears to be out of favour and is likely to be replaced in the summer, Aymeric Laporte recently signed a long-term deal and John Stones is a player Guardiola is a huge fan of. This leaves Nicolas Otamendi.

The Argentine was signed by Manuel Pellegrini in 2015 and did not appear to be the kind of defender that Guardiola was going to use as first choice.

The Manchester City defender had a good game against Eden Hazard (Getty)

However, with rising competition around him, he has always found a way to lift his game and keep himself in the manager’s plans.

The somewhat dull Wembley final was short of action and therefore a tricky game for any individual player to standout, but Otamendi was very impressive when called upon, especially with one particular tackle to deny Hazard in the penalty area.

An honourable mention must also go to Cesar Azpilicueta for his outstanding block to deny Sergio Aguero from point-blank range deep in extra time.

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