That, at least, must be the long-term hope. For now he can bask in a timely win over bitter rivals which has earned him significant respite after a desperate few weeks.
Tottenham, their display as troublingly disjointed as in defeat at Burnley a few days previously and with Saturday’s derby against Arsenal looming ever larger, ended embarrassed here with Kieran Trippier inexplicably placing a back pass wide of an on-rushing Hugo Lloris six minutes from time.
The ball trickled unaided over the line with Willian in hot pursuit and those in the Matthew Harding stand already bouncing gleefully in celebration. The crowing din of the home support will have pursued the visitors from the arena.
Dropping Arrizabalaga was payback for petulance, says Chelsea’s Sarri
The French World Cup winner had endured a hideous evening, allowing Pedro’s opener to squirm through his legs and nestle inside the near post via a flick from his right ankle, with his rather frazzled display epitomising that of the team.
It was as if Chelsea tapped into that insecurity, sensing vulnerability and exploiting it ruthlessly, all while the world’s most expensive goalkeeper twiddled his thumbs among the home side’s substitutes.
What had initially been dismissed in public as an innocent “misunderstanding” back at Wembley on Sunday, when Kepa Arrizabalaga had refused to be substituted by a head coach on the brink, had actually left the Spaniard £190,000 out of pocket and dropped.
Yet that show of strength from Sarri, a decision made “for the good of the group” as a reminder that the priority must always be the collective, ended up feeling cathartic. Kepa’s name had drawn some boos when read out over the Tannoy before kick-off but Chelsea were a team united, galvanised by a collision with local rivals and rallying behind Willy Caballero on his first Premier League start since last May.
They ended with the relationship between squad and crowd – so strained at times of late – audibly reinforced.
The restoration of spirit was epitomised by David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger and the excellent Pedro sprinting to Caballero at the final whistle to celebrate. Or César Azpilicueta, an on-field captain whose failure to usher Arrizabalaga from the pitch had drawn criticism on Sunday, muscling his way into every spat or confrontation between teammates and Spurs players which drew the referee’s whistle.
The home side ended up prevailing despite Eden Hazard being visibly exhausted and withdrawn before the hour-mark, but with others stepping up to ensure Chelsea remain only three points adrift of the top four.Last modified on Thursday, 28 February 2019