Kepa Arrizabalaga bust-up has won Maurizio Sarri more respect in Chelsea dressing room, insists under-fire boss


Maurizio Sarri claims he has earned more respect from the Chelsea dressing room since his bust-up with Kepa Arrizabalaga on Sunday.

Kepa has been fined one week’s wages after refusing to be substituted during the EFL Cup Final defeat on penalties against Manchester City.

The behaviour of the Chelsea goalkeeper, who initially claimed it was a misunderstanding before issuing an apology on Monday, has been regarded as a sign of player power ruling the roost at Stamford Bridge.

Standard Sport understands that some of the players will leave if Sarri remains in charge next season and expect him to be sacked if the team lose to Tottenham on Wednesday.

When asked about whether the players were on his side, the Chelsea coach replied: “Did you see the match on Sunday? So you have the answer. After the game is the same. No, I think better.

“I spoke with Kepa of course. Then we spoke all together because he said sorry to the technical staff, but that was not enough. Then he said sorry to his team-mates, to the club. 

“So I think he made a big mistake, but we need to be tolerant. We don’t want to kill him. So that is the position of the club.”

Despite Sarri’s assertion that the incident is in the past, he has refused to confirm whether the Spain international will start against Spurs.

Maurizio Sarri: Kepa incident was a misunderstanding

It is believed that the 24-year-old was injured, despite claiming he was just time-wasting, when he fell to the ground on more than one occasion during the latter stages of Sunday’s final.

It means he is a doubt to face Chelsea’s London rivals, however Sarri may take the opportunity to assert his authority even more anyway.

He explained: “I don’t know (if he will play), I have to decide. Maybe yes. Maybe no. I think he is fit. Yesterday he had only a recovery training session, so we have to assess him today, but I think so.

“(But) I have to decide for my group. Not with my group. I want to send a message to my group. The message could be Kepa is on the pitch, or Kepa is out the pitch. I have to decide what is better for my group.

“He has to (be mentally ready to play). He made a mistake. A big mistake. There are some consequences. If the consequence is to play, he has to be ready to play. If the consequence is the bench, he has to be ready to go to the bench.”

While Sarri was consulted over whether Kepa was fined, the Italian made it clear it was the board’s decision to punish him.

It was a dramatic U-turn from Chelsea, who initially were not planning to take any further action after Sarri and Kepa spoke publicly on Sunday evening to state it was just a misunderstanding.

Maurizio Sarri, left, reacts as Chelsea’s Kepa refused to come off. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Spurs game is still seen as key to whether Sarri will remain in charge, with members of the squad thinking he will be replaced should they suffer a seventh League defeat in 15 matches.

When asked if he feared for his job, Sarri said: “No, I am not under pressure. But you have to ask the club. I cannot understand why you ask me this kind of question. You know very well I am not able to answer. 

“If you want to know my opinion, I am not under pressure. Or, better, every three or four months you are under pressure, and I’ve been doing this job for 35 years. So for me, the pressure is a normal pressure. I want to win every match, not just tomorrow.”

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