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DESPITE the media frenzy around two of this season’s most important games for the respective teams involved, I think some of us saw the 0-0 results coming. Just how important these results will turn out to be though will be proven in the coming few weeks.
Maurizio Sarri’s reluctance to make any changes to his team’s line-up, shape and tactics this season have been well documented. The Chelsea manager has even made the same rigid, like-for-like substitution since January, seeing Ross Barkley make way for Mateo Kovacic or vice versa in every single fixture between the 60th and 85th minute.
Which is why I am hardly surprised that Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to make way when his number was called in the League Cup Final vs Manchester City. The frustration at Chelsea seems to be running right the way down through the club, all the way to their number 1.
Despite my lack of shock at the scenes that unfolded yesterday, I worry about the implications this move could see throughout football in an age where player power is King. A little closer to home however, the immediate impact of Kepa’s defiance will surely see Sarri leave Chelsea FC.
I don’t see how Sarri, an infuriated figure yesterday, can possibly continue in his job at the Blues. His feeble attempts to shrug off the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’ are laughable and further lead my sympathies away from the Italian – not onto the Chelsea players, mind, they couldn’t considered be more of a disgrace in this current climate.
And so, Manchester City march onto their dreams of an unprecedented quadruple cup win and no doubt the Chelsea keeper will be a cult hero at the Etihad should they manage to succeed.
At Anfield, an equally eventful fixture took place – namely the fiercest footballing rivalry in England between the most successful clubs the country has ever seen.
The game had everything... except goals. Within 40 minutes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hand had been forced into making all three substitutions as he watched Mata, Matic and Lingard all limp off the pitch in Liverpool.
The Reds, therefore, must have thought the game was in their hands. With the attacking prowess Liverpool boast, a misshapen United team should have been easy to pick apart. Enter Scott McTominay.
A number of United fans were confused to see McTominay’s name on the team sheet ahead of £52m Fred’s, but the young midfielder made an impressive start and marshalled the midfield throughout the game, in a game where the Red Devils needed a mature midfield performance.
Liverpool only managed to make 1 shot on target in 90 minutes, and a large portion of that was down to the Manchester United youngster McTominay, as well as his youth academy counterpart Andreas Pereira who was thrust into the action after 21 minutes.
The result sees Liverpool keep the lead at the top of the Premier League (for an incredible 400th day – a new record) and could prove to be a vital point in their championship chase should Manchester City face a worse fate at the hands of United. A monumental day in Liverpool’s bid to end 29 years of hurt, and they didn’t even have to score a goal.
On the flip side, a clever, tactical performance from Ole in the Devil’s dugout may not have been enough to keep United in the top 4, but it may just have been enough to earn him the full-time job come May.