Maurizio Sarri does not want to “kill” Kepa Arrizabalaga for his histrionics in the EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City but is yet to decide if the goalkeeper will play against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Chaos reigned towards the end of extra time at Wembley when Sarri prepared to bring on back-up keeper Willy Caballero to replace Kepa, who twice required treatment.
However, Kepa seemingly refused to be substituted, leaving Sarri furious on the touchline, and he ended up seeing out the match, which Chelsea ultimately lost 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.
Sarri and Kepa both later insisted the incident was a “misunderstanding” but the Spain goalkeeper was fined a week’s wages on Monday for his indiscretion.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the Premier League contest with Spurs, Sarri said Kepa has apologised to his team-mates and the coaching staff but the head coach will wait to decide if he features at Stamford Bridge.
“I am not the coach of the outside [media]. Okay, I spoke with the goalkeeper Kepa of course, then we spoke all together,” he said.
“Because he said sorry to the technical staff but it 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 together, we don’t want to kill him, so there is a position from the club.
“I don’t know [if he will play], I have to decide maybe yes, or maybe not. It will be a decision for the group, with the players. I have to decide what is best for the group.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 26, 2019
Kepa’s misdemeanour shone the spotlight on player power and whether Chelsea’s squad has too much influence at the club.
But Sarri reiterated that the club now want to move on and the decision to fine Kepa was not his.
“As you know very well it was only a big misunderstanding so I have to value the performance and they played with a very great level of application, a very great level of determination so I think this is really very important,” he added.
“He made a big mistake [but] for me it’s finished. No [it was not my choice to fine Kepa], it was from the board. He has to accept I think the club’s decision.”
Sarri was also probed on whether he wanted to bring on former City keeper Caballero as he is more familiar with their players, but the Chelsea boss said it was merely to do with Kepa’s condition.
“I didn’t want a goalkeeper with cramp for the penalties. Caballero knows very well the other players at Manchester,” he said.
“I thought it was better with a goalkeeper with very good condition to go to the penalties. I don’t think anything because penalties are a lottery.”
Sarri had found his position coming under increased scrutiny even before the EFL Cup final and the Blues have now lost four of their past seven competitive outings.
But the former Napoli boss had little interest in discussing his future.
“I am not under pressure but you have to ask the club,” he added.
“I don’t know why you ask me, I can’t answer. If you want my opinion I say I am not under pressure. I am doing this job for 35 years.”
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