Sarri vindicated for dropping Kepa as Chelsea & Pedro impress in Spurs win

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Pedro Chelsea 2018-19
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Chelsea’s players showed they are still behind their under-pressure boss, impressing in a crucial victory over Spurs at Stamford Bridge

"It's a choice. It's a message for my group," stated Maurizio Sarri before kick-off as the under-fire Chelsea coach explained his decision to drop his record signing against Tottenham Hotspur.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was left out for the first time this season, punished for his refusal to be substituted at Wembley in the penalty shootout loss to Manchester City on Sunday.
The Spaniard has also been fined a week's wages, but the big question mark ahead of Wednesday’s game was whether Sarri would re-assert his authority over his squad by bringing in Willy Caballero between the posts.

Sarri did just that and he was fully vindicated for his decision as Chelsea not only won a crucial game 2-0 but his players showed that they are still behind their boss with a courageous display.

Arrizabalaga's actions had overshadowed Chelsea's unlucky loss to Man City, a team that Sarri described as the 'best team in Europe'.

A win against Spurs was absolutely vital and Sarri was left thanking another Spaniard in Pedro for breaking the deadlock with a wonderful goal after half time. The winger cut in from the right and shot through the legs of Hugo Lloris.

A comical own goal from Kieran Trippier, who back-passed the ball into his own net after a miscommunication with Lloris, sealed a deserved win for the home side.

Star man Eden Hazard displayed some tiredness here after playing a gruelling 120 minutes at Wembley just three days ago and was substituted in the 57th minute. The Belgian didn’t perform as we usually expect, so it was down to others to take the limelight.

Marcos Alonso has been criticised more than most recently but put in a well-balanced display on the left-hand side. David Luiz was an outstanding performer at centre-back, as the whole defensive unit operated brilliantly together for the second straight game.

Eden Hazard Chelsea 2018-19

Chelsea changed their usual approach against Man City at the weekend, but they turned back to a more typical high-pressing style versus Spurs.

Jorginho received groans from the home support after a few misplaced passes, but his defensive contribution was excellent as Chelsea showed the kind of determination that they have been accused of lacking in recent months.

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The Italo-Brazilian was man marked again by Erik Lamela but the attention didn't stop him influencing the game as Mauricio Pochettino's side suffered back-to-back defeats which have dragged them back into the top-four battle.

It is Sarri, though, who will go to bed happiest on Wednesday night. He re-asserted his authority over his squad, won the hearts and minds of many fans and critics with his conduct of recent days, and bought more time to implement his football revolution in west London.

And in doing all that, he also made it clear that he “doesn’t want to kill” Kepa. The Spaniard will be back sooner rather than later. Sarri, meanwhile, is still alive and kicking, too.