Maurizio Sarri Drops Kepa Arrizabalaga as Tottenham Hotspur Go Down With a Wimper
Burnley put a dent in Tottenham Hotspur’s title charge at the weekend before Chelsea were defeated in the Carabao Cup final on penalties by Manchester City. Maurizio Sarri was left looking an angry and forlorn figure after Kepa Arizabalaga refused to come off the Wembley pitch raising more questions about Sarri and what if any control he has at Chelsea.
The two teams met tonight at Stamford Bridge with Spurs arguably the favourites coming into it.
Sarri Drops Kepa to Assert Authority
Sarri made no bones about dropping Arrizabalaga from his starting line-up, meaning Willy Cabellero finally got onto the pitch, albeit three days later than his manager had planned.
Chelsea started the quicker of the two teams, with Eden Hazard looking sharp and earning a free-kick in the first five minutes. The set piece went straight into the wall and a few moments later, Gonzalo Higuain sliced a shot against the post with Hugo Lloris motionless.
The Man in the Middle
Mike Dean was due to the be the fourth official at this game but due to the incident involving Mauricio Pochettino at Burnley, he was moved to the Manchester City game. In the first 15 minutes, main match official Andre Marriner failed to give two blatant fouls on Son Heung-min and, although the Tottenham manager scowled in his seat, he kept his emotions in check.
Moussa Sissoko was also penalised for some soft ‘fouls’ and it looked as if the officials’ union was sticking together. Hazard swung an arm into Kieran Trippier and the officials missed it completely. Once again, the poor standard of officiating in the Premier League was on show.
Hugo Lloris nearly gifted the lead to Chelsea with an awful pass which worked its way back to Higuain, who could only curl the ball wide. The Chelsea manager was kicking, heading and tackling everything in his technical area. Tottenham looked to be suffering a hangover from the defeat at Turf Moor, with Son looking the liveliest player up top. At 0-0 in this match, elsewhere, Liverpool were already extending their lead at the top of the table. Tottenham needed three points from this game.
Upping the Tempo
It took until 30 minutes for Tottenham to fully come to life and move up a gear. Erik Lamela was starting to get hold of the ball but it was Sissoko who had the first shot in anger. Son was getting more of the ball and David Luiz was having to make several last-ditch tackles.
Harry Kane was looking for the ball and showed his incredible strength in the 40th minute to get past three players before his shot was deflected behind for a corner. As so often this season, no Spurs player seems capable of delivering a good ball into the box and it ended with nothing. With half-time approaching, Harry Winks unleashed a swerving shot that rattled against the crossbar and away to safety. Then, Son got away from his man as he did at Wembley but no one was on hand to put home the cross. It was goalless at half-time, a result which would suit neither side.
Pedro Fires Chelsea Ahead
Chelsea were once again much quicker at the start of the half and it took just over ten minutes for them to bring a smile to Sarri’s face. Pedro turned Toby Alderweireld far too easily and forced home through Lloris’ legs. The keeper left red-faced and not for the first time this season. Eriksen had a chance but Pedro earned his stripes in defence as he slid in to take the ball clear.
Tottenham were struggling to find a way through but, when it came, it was Harry Kane who fluffed his lines. Ben Davies pulled the ball back but with Lamela diving in front of him, Kane didn’t connect and the ball rolled wide.
Spurs’ Title Dream Ended with Lack of Fight
If Tottenham’s title dreams didn’t end with the defeat to Burnley, they were finally extinguished tonight at Stamford Bridge. Lacklustre, tired and it is hard not to say anything other than this was a poor performance from Spurs. Just when they needed to show character and resilience, they went down to their London rivals with nothing more than a whimper. And when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Trippier scored a calamitous own goal. With no pressure on the right-back, Lloris came rushing out and the defender rolled the ball past him.
Chelsea bounced back from their weekend nightmare but, for Spurs, they now face Arsenal at Wembley in the North London Derby. Rather than looking at the title race, Spurs leave Stamford Bridge looking very nervously over their shoulder with a top four place looking now looking less than certain.