Iwan Roberts: The pressure looks like it is beginning to show on Bielsa and Leeds United
For the umpteenth time this season the lads once again showed the character, determination and that never-say-die attitude to come back, not just once, but twice to win the game Saturday against a very good well organised Bristol City side.
In their previous seven Championship games Lee Johnson’s lads had conceded just two goals!
That alone demonstrates what a tough task Norwich had in front of them last weekend but once again Daniel Farke’s team showed what they’re all about scoring three goals and beating the in-form team in the league.
As Norwich are keeping their heads, it looks like Leeds are losing theirs and the pressure and expectancy looks like it’s not just getting to the players but also the manager and the owner.
Before their 1-0 defeat against QPR on Tuesday night bringing QPR’s dreadful run of seven consecutive league defeats to an end their owner Andrea Radrizzini admitted that if the club fail to win promotion this season he will probably have to sell the club, add to this their manager Marcelo Bielsa coming out and saying that he’s not 100 percent sure that’s he’s the right man to lead Leeds back into the Premier League, quotes like this will only add to the pressure the players are already feeling.
What a bizarre incident we witnessed last Sunday in the League Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City. It’s something that I’ve never seen happen on a football field, not even in my vets days. The game was coming towards the end of extra time when the world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga went down with cramp. My initial thoughts were how on earth does a keeper suffer from cramp? I mean it’s not as if he runs around like N’Golo Kante!
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Kepa received quite lengthy treatment and in this time Maurizio Sarri had decided to bring on sub goalkeeper Willy Caballero, a former Manchester City player and a keeper with a very good record of saving penalties.
What happened next was just plain farcical and so disrespectful towards not just Sarri but Chelsea FC.
Kepa plainly refused to come off despite his manager nearly walking out of the door at Wembley. We’ll never know what really went on but in my opinion Kepa was bang out of order, it’s simple, if a manger wants you off the pitch - then off the pitch you come.
There’s been times when I’ve been less than impressed with being substituted and I’ve sulked for a couple of days but never have I refused the manager’s wishes. To be fair, there’s been a few times when I’ve been quite happy to see my number being raised up by the fourth official.
I remember a similar situation when I was playing for Leicester in the 95-96 play off final against Crystal Palace at the old Wembley.
Martin O’Neill, our manager, had decided that if the game looked like going to penalties he would take off his number one keeper Kevin Poole who was just shorter than six foot on his tip toes and bring on our giant Australian keeper on Zeljko Kalac, whose 6ft 7ins frame would fill the goal.
True to his word, Martin, with about three minutes left of extra time, told Zeljko to get himself ready and as soon as there was a break in play he made the change.
Kevin was gutted and quite angry but was very professional and so jogged off to be replaced by our secret weapon for the penalty shoot-out.
The look on the Palace players was a picture, they couldn’t quite believe what they’d just seen, and the irony of the story is the game never went to penalties as in the very last seconds of the game Stevie Claridge smashed one in from 20 yards past Palace keeper Nigel Martyn.
To this day I still think that the substitution won us the game as the Palace players lost their concentration for those final two minutes after seeing big Zeljko come on which gave Claridge the room he needed to win us the game.