Kepa Arrizabalaga: Has $92.8 million goalkeeper fatally undermined Maurizio Sarri?

Article Image

Alex Thomas chats with Mark Bolton and Carl Anka about Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and his decision to ignore Maurizio Sarri in the League Cup final.

Posted: Feb 25, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: Feb 25, 2019 2:10 PM

Maurizio Sarri tore furiously at his jacket, gesticulating wildly as he stormed down the Wembley tunnel.

The Chelsea manager, already fighting for survival after just seven months in the job, had just been publicly humiliated in the biggest match of his career by an act of insubordination from one of his youngest players.

Having already gone down twice with cramp during extra time of the League Cup final, Kepa Arrizabalaga -- Chelsea's 24-year-old goalkeeper and the most expensive stopper in the world -- was set to be substituted and replaced by Willy Caballero.

Upon seeing his number held up by the fourth official, Kepa -- a $92.8 million summer signing from Athletic Bilbao -- began defiantly wagging his finger towards Sarri on the touchline, refusing to leave the pitch.

What followed was an ugly scene that overshadowed what was a markedly improved Chelsea performance and a battle of wills, embarrassingly lost by a manager in the first major cup final of his career.

Substitute Caballero, who saved three penalties for Sunday's opponents Manchester City against Liverpool in the 2016 final, stood confused with his arms outstretched in the direction of his embattled boss.

READ: Chelsea manager Sarri rages over sub clash as Manchester City wins League Cup

READ: Liverpool draw with Manchester United in Premier League but was it two points dropped?

A visibly livid Sarri, who eventually backed down after a conversation with referee Jonathan Moss, had to be held back from confronting Kepa at full time by his defender Antonio Rudiger.

The ugly standoff, which few can ever remember seeing previously in the sport, serves as yet more fuel for the accusations of "player power" in the Chelsea dressing room, which reportedly forced Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho out of Stamford Bridge.

For Sarri, now publicly undermined following weeks of speculation surrounding his future, the question is: What next?

Does the Italian allow Kepa's act of disrespect to slide and select the goalkeeper for Wednesday's crucial Premier League derby against Tottenham?

In the post-match press conference, it seemed this was the route Sarri had decided to go down -- at least publicly.

"It was a big misunderstanding," he told reporters. "I understood he had cramp so I didn't want the goalkeeper to go to penalties in that physical condition. I only realized the situation after three or four minutes when the doctor came to the bench.

"In the meantime I wanted Caballero on the pitch, and the keeper [Kepa] only wanted me to know he was in condition to go to penalties, so it was a big misunderstanding.

"Kepa was right, even if the way he conducted himself was wrong. Mentally he was right, he was able to go to penalties, but I only realized everything when the doctor was able to come to the bench, not before. I was really angry.

"I want to talk with him because he needs to understand that with a misunderstanding we can get in trouble, especially with you (the media). So I think I only have to explain the situation to Kepa but without any other problem."

Kepa, at least this time, went along with his manager and claimed the altercation was nothing more than confusion between the pair.

"First of all, I have to say it was misunderstood," said the goalkeeper. "In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss.

"Just that it was misunderstood, because I had been attended to by the medics twice, and he thought that I wasn't in condition to continue. It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench, and they explained everything well.

"I know if you see it from outside, I don't know how it went out, it is not the best image. I have spoken with the boss. I think it was misunderstood. I understand that on television, on social media, they're talking about this but I am here to explain it, to say that it wasn't my intention to go against the manager."

Their version of events didn't wash with those who had witnessed the standoff and whether or not Sarri will deal with Kepa differently in private is another question, but the blame also lies at the door of Chelsea's senior players who refused to stand up for their manager.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta was nowhere to be seen, while David Luiz appeared to be having a mild-mannered private chat with the goalkeeper over the impasse.

Another option Sarri has, and one which many onlookers believe he should take, would be to leave Kepa on the bench or in the reserves for the foreseeable future.

However, for a manager whose job is on a knife edge following several abysmal performances, it seems unlikely Sarri holds the power to come out on top against the club's most valuable asset.

Coupled with Chelsea's inability to sign a potential replacement for two transfer windows following a FIFA ban, Kepa's future at the club appears to be safe.

Sarri's fury will have been compounded by the incident overshadowing arguably one of the team's best performances during his time in charge.

After all, he had suffered a resounding 6-0 defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola's City just two weeks earlier but in Sunday's final Chelsea had shown glimpses of Sarri's blueprint, the reason he was headhunted from Napoli.

The team defended resolutely as a unit and there were neat combinations which allowed Chelsea to play out effectively from the back, bypassing City's high press.

Jorginho recycled the ball efficiently in midfield, as he did for Sarri when the pair were in Naples, while N'Golo Kante was at times a devastating outlet for Chelsea to transition from defense to attack.

In truth, few would have argued had Chelsea come out on top after 120 minutes but now few will remember the match for anything other than Kepa's public display of disobedience.

The Spaniard even had the chance to turn himself into a hero in the subsequent penalty shootout, but only infuriated his fans more by allowing Sergio Aguero's weak penalty to inexplicably squirm under his hands.

He did go some way to making amends a few minutes later, saving Leroy Sane's effort, but misses from Luiz and Jorginho proved costly -- both for Chelsea and Kepa's reputation.

It seems a shame that for 120 minutes the Chelsea players put in a performance which may well have saved Sarri's job, only for Kepa's public mutiny to put his coach's position in yet more danger.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21315

Reported Deaths: 890
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin7168539
Ramsey243797
Stearns195012
Nobles14692
Anoka121056
Dakota110235
Olmsted56210
Washington52729
Kandiyohi4681
Rice3862
Clay37324
Scott3582
Wright2531
Sherburne2142
Todd2040
Mower1891
Carver1742
Benton1672
Steele1410
Martin1255
Blue Earth1151
St. Louis11113
Freeborn930
Pine850
Winona7815
Carlton730
Nicollet695
Cottonwood640
Otter Tail600
Polk592
Watonwan560
Crow Wing561
Goodhue552
Itasca537
Chisago481
Dodge440
Chippewa420
Meeker420
Le Sueur411
Jackson390
Morrison380
Becker370
Murray350
Lyon340
Douglas290
Isanti280
McLeod270
Waseca250
Unassigned229
Rock210
Mille Lacs171
Fillmore171
Swift160
Wabasha160
Brown122
Beltrami120
Faribault120
Sibley120
Wilkin113
Cass112
Kanabec111
Norman110
Pipestone100
Marshall90
Pennington90
Pope80
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Koochiching60
Yellow Medicine60
Renville50
Mahnomen51
Lincoln50
Clearwater30
Big Stone30
Traverse30
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Redwood30
Grant20
Houston20
Roseau10
Hubbard10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17533

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3774108
Woodbury262424
Black Hawk168239
Linn93575
Marshall87011
Dallas85714
Johnson6027
Muscatine54539
Wapello5144
Crawford4862
Tama39423
Scott3379
Louisa3347
Dubuque32316
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2430
Pottawattamie2126
Sioux2070
Washington1808
Wright1220
Allamakee1184
Plymouth1160
Warren1110
Story951
Poweshiek888
Mahaska856
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Des Moines551
Boone550
Cedar461
Guthrie433
Taylor390
Benton371
Jones360
Clarke350
Iowa330
Monroe334
Osceola320
Buchanan320
Shelby310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Hamilton260
Fayette260
Monona240
Madison241
Winneshiek230
Lee220
Cerro Gordo221
Davis200
Grundy190
Lyon190
Harrison190
Jefferson180
Floyd181
Mills160
Cherokee160
Butler150
Delaware150
Keokuk140
Greene130
Sac130
Hardin130
Humboldt130
Ida130
Howard120
Jackson120
Appanoose123
Hancock120
Audubon111
Cass110
Van Buren100
Clay100
Page100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Dickinson90
Franklin80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Emmet70
Union70
Kossuth70
Unassigned60
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Pocahontas40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur00
Rochester
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Mason City
Few Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 65°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
Charles City
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Storms a brewin'
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Weather 5/25

Image

Honoring Veterans During a Pandemic

Image

Loud Mouth Brass Band spreads cheer to residents in Slattery Park

Image

Finding the silver lining during the pandemic

Image

Will Memorial Day cause a coronavirus spike?

Image

Can you catch Covid-19 from mosquitos?

Image

125 Live Restaurant partnership

Image

Taps in City Park

Image

100 Most traveled days in MN have begun

Image

Parade in the park

Community Events