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Last days of Roman’s empire?

OPINION: Given the soap opera substitutions he’s witnessed, you could hardly blame the club’s billionaire owner for losing a bit of interest in Chelsea

01 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley

HARD lines on Chelsea, who were defeated in the league cup final on Sunday by a club that can buy who they want and spend what they want thanks to their grotesquely rich owners.

Who’d build a successful team in a such an unimaginative and unimpressive, money-doped way, eh?

It turns out, however, that Chelsea themselves still have enough dosh to buy a £71million goalkeeper who now we discover not only plays between the sticks, but apparently, calls all the shots at the club… despite not officially holding the title of Chelsea captain, head coach and ruler of the world. At that price, why not?

It was charitable then of Kepa Arrizabalaga not to order any punishment for this chap Maurizio Sarri who was having some sort of tantrum on the sidelines.

It’s not quite clear what Sarri’s role is but he hovers around the technical area, presumably waiting for his next order from King Kepa.

As boss of all, it doesn’t matter that Kepa salted the extraordinary spectacle of Sunday’s non-substitution with a cocky wink to the camera at the end of the match and then a failure to save a timid penalty from Sergio Aguero. He can keep himself back in training for extra penalty practice if he wants, but presumably the decision will be left with him.

We had, of course, thought we had already seen the most farcical Chelsea player power substitution mess we’d ever witness. That would be John Terry’s self-approved decision to leave the pitch on 26 minutes – his shirt number, bless – on his final match at Stamford Bridge.

This choreographed, emotional tearjerker was complete with the ref and opposing team, Sunderland, joining in, as if the country had lost a heroic monarch – or Sir David Attenborough had died.

Somehow though, Kepa was able to outcringe even the mad Terry farewell pantomime, telling Sarri to sit back in his chair, ignoring the pleading, puppy dog eyes of Gianfanco Zola and forcing, no doubt with some level of baldism, Willy Caballero back into his seat.

It was all going to play out with him as the spot kick saving hero from the comic books he read as a kid, only for the very opposite to happen.

What’s striking is that, just in the case with Terry’s ceremony, none of the Chelsea players said to Kepa: Mate, you sure you want to do this? They just let it all happen.

People have suggested that Roman Ambramovich has lost a bit of interest in Chelsea, having spiked plans for a stadium which looked like it was going to be twice as good as the new White Hart Lane.

Given the soap opera substitutions he’s witnessed – we’ve all witnessed – we are almost at a stage where you can hardly blame him.


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