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TV Wrap: Terry's self-interest on show as Sky get analysis of Sarri/Kepa controversy wrong

The Carabao Cup final was marked by an amazing moment of television, but Sky had the wrong people analysing it.

John Terry on Sky's coverage of the Carabao Cup final yesterday.
John Terry on Sky's coverage of the Carabao Cup final yesterday.

IT WAS ANOTHER weekend to appreciate Sky Sports’ contribution to the study of human behaviour: if you train cameras on millionaires and egotists for long enough, one of them will eventually do something disgraceful and highly entertaining.

Their parable is not Big Brother’s interpreting of Lord of the Flies, as so many of the Premier League’s protagonists have spent so long living by their wealth’s necessary seclusion that they couldn’t even conceive of a model of society to break down.

No, theirs is more a kind of Fyre Festival, in which self-regarding billionaires leverage the history of the site upon which they transpose their slickly-produced plaything while alienating and ripping off the locals.

But if Fyre Festival became about the lengths one man would go for his boss, Premier League/Carabao Cup yesterday became about how determined another was to defy his.

There was another difference, as by the end the protagonist did, in fact, blow it, albeit with the attendant Willy (Caballero) entirely disengaged.

We talk, of course, about Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted in the final moments of extra-time in yesterday’s Carabao Cup final, with Maurizio Sarri flying into a desperate rage, screaming and rambling around like a kind of sunken-eyed, beardless Lear.

Kepa crowned his mutiny with a wink to the camera, while to see Sarri rip at his clothes and flounce toward the tunnel was to witness the sad sight of a man denied the dignity of a cigarette at work.

“I’ll never forget it”, roared Alan Smith on Sky commentary.

Sadly, the pundits on Sky seemed determined to forget about it and talk about anything else.

With the first-team of David Jones, Carragher, Neville and Souness all stranded at Old Trafford, back-ups Scott Minto and Jamie Redknapp were joined by West Ham full-back Pablo Zabaleta and John ‘JT’ Terry.

It fell to Jamie to lead the outrage, who is nobody’s idea of a full-throated anarchist.

He kicked off with a gag, delivered to a silence that was lacking only a distant, disembodied cough. “To pardon the pun, he’s done Sarri up like a Kepa.”

Chelsea v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Final - Wembley Stadium Sarri and Kepa clash at Wembley. Source: EMPICS Sport

From there, Jamie sat there agog, wearing the bewildered face of a man who had just seen everything governing his world-view blown apart.

“I thought I’d seen it all in football.

“It’s a bad call by the goalkeeper. You’ve got to come off. That’s football. Once your number comes up, you have to get off the field.”

Heck, even what Jamie knew of muscle fibres was made untrue. “I’m still struggling with the idea that a keeper can get cramp in the first place. I’m still struggling with that.”

Pablo Zabaleta’s determination not to criticise anyone, meanwhile, was insulting: he paused, exhaled and then conceded that “It’s difficult to say something about it.”

No, mate. It’s exceptionally easy. 

Sky’s pitch-side interview with captain Cesar Azpilicueta was risible too.

When the player said he hadn’t seen an incident that stopped play for three minutes, there was no follow-up question.

Instead, the interview ended asking whether Chelsea had answered “their critics” half an hour after there emerged a whole new legion of Chelsea critics.

And so to JT.

It has been notable that Sarri’s travails at Chelsea have coincided with a boost in JT’s media profile: he was in full view of the BBC cameras during Monday’s defeat to Manchester United, and popped up on Sky yesterday.

Ahead of the game, he spoke to Laura Woods from the Chelsea dressing room, saying that he would bow to populism and swap Kante with Jorginho “if it was my team.”

Come full-time, JT was put in the difficult situation of having to say something other than blandly praise Chelsea.

Zabaleta was steadfastly refusing to say anything, and Redknapp was simply making the same couple of points over and over again, albeit at a differing pace.

Remarkably, JT was also somewhat compromised in this incredibly esoteric situation regarding a substitution controversy, having ended his Chelsea career by manufacturing a 26th-minute substitution in his final game in reference to his shirt number.

(SP)BRITAIN-LONDON-FOOTBALL-PREMIER LEAGUE-CHELSEA VS SUNDERLAND John Terry waves farewell to Chelsea as a 27th-minute substitute in their final game of the 2016/17 season. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

(That David Moyes and Sunderland agreed to put the ball out in the first place – and then didn’t actually manage to do so until the 27th minute – will someday open a book on Moyes’ post-Everton career).

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JT agreed with Jamie that Kepa had to come off, finding refuge in the ancient football custom of ‘If Your Number’s Up’.

Having initially said that Kepa had “disrespected” Sarri, however, he then began to walk it back by saying that the lad isn’t “that way inclined”, despite the fresh video evidence showing that he clearly is.

JT was tip-toeing around the subject with the guile of a man who may someday be working with Kepa, instead focusing on how the incident had put a “cloud” on a fine Chelsea performance.

He said various things to appeal to the base, stressing the character and the quality in the dressing room to say that things will improve for Chelsea; if not over the next few months then certainly next season.

He also made prodigious use of that great shibboleth, ‘the football club’.

There was no talk of the responsibility the rest of the Chelsea players had for the incident, or how a club captain might contrive to miss the whole thing.

Nor was there any criticism of a culture at Chelsea that has long-since undermined the authority of the manager.

Instead, Jamie repeated himself, Zabaleta continued to say nothing and JT signed off by saying it was a “professional and diligent performance by Chelsea.”

Meanwhile, Carragher, Neville, Souness, and Jones were marooned in Manchester, having covered The Big One earlier in the day.

Given that Souness took umbrage at how he was looked at by Jones that day, his seething at Kepa would have been something to behold.

On this one, Sky had the cameras on the wrong people.

- Originally published at 16.07

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Gavin Cooney

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