A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s performance in the Carabao Cup Final against Manchester City.
Wembley Stadium bathed in glorious February sunshine was the venue for The Carabao Cup Final as last season’s winners Manchester City came up against Chelsea. Both sides have won the competition 5 times in the past and the winner would become the second most successful club in the competition’s history.
Maurizio Sarri has led his team to his first major cup final as a manager, which seems surprising when you consider the high level of pressure being aimed at his future. The media have been extremely close to calling some of his recent matches as potentially his last in charge at Stamford Bridge.
So a much anticipated team line up saw 5 changes from the side which started in the win against Malmö FF on Thursday evening. Gonzalo Higuain, Marcos Alonso and Mateo Kovacic all missed out, as Sarri reverted back to asking Eden Hazard to play as a false 9, flanked by Pedro and Willian. Otherwise, Emerson Palmieri and Ross Barkley were preferred .
Pep Guardiola opted to not risk Vincent Kompany from the start and otherwise picked what currently appears to be his favoured line up. And early on they dominated possession.
Sarri appeared to have learnt from his side’s heavy defeat to the same opposition just 2 weeks previously. The Chelsea midfield sat deeper on the pitch and that starved space for the Manchester City attacks. As a consequence, Chelsea looked far more secure.
This meant that City had to be far more patient with their forward play, while Chelsea were able to quickly close down City possession in their defensive areas. Both David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger had outstanding performances while there was no sign of the mauling the Chelsea defence suffered last time.
Chelsea’s stifling tactics also helped them grow in confidence. And as the match wore on, it was The Blues who looked more likely to find a winner. However, they will rue the fact that in 120 minutes of football, they did not manage to get a single attempt on target.
But it was what happened in the last few minutes of extra time that the media wanted to focus on. Yes Kepa Arrizabalaga should have walked off and followed his manager’s instructions but as a Chelsea fan it was great to finally see some real true passion to what to fight for the cause.
Sarri probably wanted Willy Caballero to face the penalty shootout and Kepa believed that he was being substituted only due to the cramp he had just been suffering with. The young keeper will receive his punishment but this situation was caused by a willingness to battle on by a youngster still wanting to prove himself.
Having witnessed individuals and teams lack of passion and concern when things aren’t working, it was a breath of fresh air to see both the keeper and the manager being so strong in their emotions to do what they each thought was best for the team.
We will never know if Caballero would have fared better in the shootout, but the real focus should be on how well The Blues performed overall.
With all supporters lacking in any confidence beforehand and generally hoping the final would not end in another 6-0 drubbing. However, Sarri sent his team out with a game plan that was brilliantly executed by his players. It was clear to see that the team are behind their manager and believe in some of his philosophies.
Admittedly, Sarri is not out of the woods with this display but it was a significant step in the right direction. A clear change in tactics and formation had looked beyond him but here that held back the strongest team in the country on the biggest stage in the country.
Only time will tell if this performance was a turning point in the season, but at least for one afternoon the fans clearly backed and supported their team.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue