Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted during Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final loss to Manchester City on Sunday has divided the Chelsea dressing room according to reports.
During the incident on Sunday, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri could be heard screaming on the touchline “How could you do this?” in his native Italian, according to Daily Mail.
Sarri played down the incident after the match by claiming it was a misunderstanding between himself and Kepa as he thought the goalkeeper had cramp but Sarri’s decision to substitute Kepa for Willy Caballero was pre-planned and not as a result of an injury to the Spanish keeper.
According to The Times, Sarri had planned replacing Arrizabalaga with Willy Caballero for the shoot-out because of the Argentine’s goalkeeper’s excellent record of saving penalties.
While all the attention has been on Sarri and Kepa, the real victim of the incident on Sunday was Willy Caballero. The Argentine goalkeeper wasn’t happy with Kepa’s refusal to be replaced and several Chelsea players are believed to be sympathetic towards Caballero, who is popular among the Chelsea squad.
One player that has reportedly backed Kepa in all of this is Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, according to Daily Telegraph. Azpilicueta made his feelings clear by arguing with Sarri at the end of extra-time and then congratulating Kepa for his shootout save from Leroy Sane.
Daily Telegraph claim Chelsea’s Spanish contingent of Kepa, Azpilicueta, Pedro and Marcos Alonso are a close group who stick tightly together and they are reportedly on Kepa’s side.
It is claimed this isn’t the first time Azpilicueta is confronting Sarri this season as the right-back also stood up to Sarri after the 60-year-old had blamed the players for the manner of the defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.
Sarri held a team meeting on Monday, during which Kepa apologised to the rest of the squad, and also to Sarri.
The Spanish goalkeeper has now been fined one week’s wages by the club and according to The Times, representatives of the board have spoken to Kepa about his behavior.
Will Kepa play against Tottenham on Wednesday following the events of Sunday? The Times claim the goalkeeper is set to keep his place for the game against Tottenham on Wednesday.