Kepa debacle highlights what Chelsea are lacking most – Leadership

The Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Chelsea was one which will be remembered for years to come. Not because of the teams, the game, or the score, but because of one player and his refusal to obey his manager. Kepa Arrizabalaga’s actions have been termed disgusting and disrespectful towards the team, but they shed light on a far more serious situation currently evolving at Chelsea Football Club. 

“Once your number goes up you have to come off and show a bit of respect. Deal with that after” Chelsea legend and former captain John Terry said when asked about the Kepa Arrizabalaga situation.

Not too long ago, Chelsea’s number one had caused quite the scene inside Wembley Stadium after he refused to take direct orders from his manager Maurizio Sarri. The Italian wanted to switch Kepa for Willy Caballero, with the former seemingly picking up an injury. However, despite the Chelsea manager’s fierce commands, Kepa stayed put, much to the disbelief of those watching.

David Luiz walked over to the Spaniard during his confrontation with the bench, uttering a few words discreetly. “I just said to him we have to respect the decision of the coach,”  he revealed after the match.

As the Brazilian defender tried to knock some sense into his teammate, the rest of the Chelsea team stood and watched. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta stayed out of the picture, as did other senior players such as Eden Hazard and Antonio Rudiger.

The whole debacle painted a horrifying picture of the Chelsea dressing room. One which had no leaders present. Instead, just a bunch of well-paid football stars, who were a collective not by purpose, but by obligation.

Voices in the Dressing Room

Every team needs leaders. Players who become an extension of the manager on the pitch, while also keeping their teammates in line. But not everyone can be a leader. Thankfully, Chelsea haven’t had to deal with that problem for a long time.

The Blues always had big voices present inside the dressing room such as Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, and most notably, John Terry; who helped shape the club’s new image after Roman Abramovich took over.

Abramovich’s take over also brought in many big stars to Stamford Bridge. But they were always kept in line by several powerful voices inside the dressing room and subsequently on the pitch. More importantly, these select leaders always led by example, putting everything on the line for the club. And when they did, the rest followed.

That was never more evident than in Chelsea’s match against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League when the Blues overturned a big deficit in the most difficult of circumstances.

Where did the Leaders go?

Time has taken most of the influential voices away from Chelsea. Didier Drogba was the first to leave in 2012, followed by Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole in 2014. Petr Cech left in 2015 while Captain John Terry stayed on for three more years, before finally departing the club in 2017.

By the law of succession, the leadership responsibilities fell on Gary Cahill, who had served as John Terry’s second in command during his last few years at Chelsea. However, over the past two seasons, Cahill has seen his value to the team lessen to such an extent that many might forget that he still is a Chelsea player.

Cesar Azpilicueta, meanwhile, is ever present in the starting eleven. However, despite the Spaniard’s consistent performances, he has failed to live up to the task of being a team captain until now. Azpilicueta especially attracted criticism after his lack of initiative during the Carabao Cup Final, when he stood and watched as his teammate and manager engaged in a heated debate.

However, Chelsea’s overall troubles lie not in the current leadership but a complete and absolute lack of leaders. It’s hard to imagine the Blues repeat a performance like the one against Napoli with no one willing to step up for the team.