Who’s the boss? Sarri’s sorry state shows player power is out of control

The powers-that-be need to act or we’ll soon see the manager’s role vanish completely due to player power running wild over...

Chelsea's Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri (L) reacts after Chelsea's Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga remains on the pitch after an attempt to substitute him for Chelsea's Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero (R) during the English League Cup final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in north London on February 24, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)


In case you’ve been holidaying or living on the moon since Sunday, and don’t know what happened – here’s a quick breakdown.

With a few minutes to go in extra-time of the Carabao Cup final, Maurizio Sarri decided that, through a combination of his starting goalkeeper being injured and his substitute goalkeeper having a nifty record when facing penalties, he would replace the Spanish stopper with his understudy.

After getting back to his feet, Kepa Arrizabalaga motioned to the bench that he was fine, and indeed, that’s all it could have been.

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But as the incident carried on, many began to wonder if he was simply refusing to come off the pitch. After clearly seeing his manager lose the plot at his inaction, Willy Caballero ready to come on and having a chat with David Luiz, it’s almost inconceivable to think he didn’t understand the situation.

It was very much the line that was peddled after the game, but it probably won’t be the version of events relayed in twenty years’ time when one or the other has a book out to make a quick buck. On one hand, Kepa’s moment of selfishness was an isolated incident and can’t be used as a catalyst to magnify petulant behaviour in professionals. But on the other hand, his actions show how self-centred the modern-day footballer is.

The manager’s role has changed over time. At first, they began to pass off some coaching duties. Then, they would often send their assistant to deal with the press.

Now, they don’t even buy the players they manage.

If a player believes that he has the authority to overwrite the last remnant of responsibility given to a manager – the sole example of leadership one can show – then the game is gone.

What footballers need to remember as they’re counting their extra income from sponsorship deals that have little to do with how they perform on the field, is that their managers have usually been involved in the game longer than them.

They’re also paid to do a specific job, and they won’t be paid if they’re not afforded the opportunity to do it. If a player doesn’t play on a given week, then they still get paid.

They won’t lose their job.

Players like Kepa, who use their newfound reputation as marketable entities to undermine their managers are the biggest issue with the modern game – setting aside all the financial discrepancies that governing bodies like letting slide. Sarri will now face questions that shouldn’t be asked of him. Now, the media question his control over his team. They will question how he dealt with the situation and how he looked weak as a leader.

This is because the actual flaw with the situation lies with the entitlement felt by athletes due to their excessive contracts. Money is the reason this happens, and money is also the only reason that football is presentable as a commodity to their readerships.

If anyone is to lose their job, it should be Kepa.

It’s hard to fully understand just how any fingers are pointed at Sarri, but somehow they are. The incident itself is an indictment of entitlement, but the questions that follow are even more of an indictment of the indifference shown towards these behavioural patterns.

We’re about five years from players managing themselves unless officials and football associations take a firmer stance on the duties of managers.

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