LONDON: Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri said the refusal of his goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to be substituted in Sunday’s League Cup final was the result of a “big misunderstanding”, adding that the Spaniard “was right but in the wrong way”.
Arrizabalaga appeared to be injured as he prevented Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero from scoring in the closing moments of extra time, and Sarri ordered his substitution before Chelsea went on to lose the final 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
But with the change already displayed to the stadium by the fourth official, and Chelsea’s reserve keeper Willy Caballero ready to come on, Kepa insisted he was fit to carry on and remained on the field to the visible anger of Sarri.
“It was a big misunderstanding because I understood that he had a cramp. So I didn’t want a keeper (to) go to penalties in that physical condition,” Sarri told reporters.
“The goalkeeper wanted only to let me know that he was in condition to go to the penalties,” the Italian said.
“It was only a big misunderstanding. Kepa was right, but in the wrong way.”
Arrizabalaga remained on the field for the penalty shootout which Manchester City won 4-3 after the showpiece match ended 0-0 after extra time to retain the trophy.
With a Premier League game on Wednesday against Tottenham Hotspur, ex-Chelsea captain John Terry, working as a TV pundit, said it would be “interesting” to see if Kepa kept his place.
Another former Chelsea player, striker Chris Sutton, described the situation as “mutiny”.
“He’s been undermined – it’s the worst thing that can happen to a manager,” Sutton told the BBC.
Former Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa later backed Sarri’s comments, confirming it had been a misunderstanding, although he admitted the situation had looked bad.
“In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss. Just that it was misunderstood,” he said in a statement on Chelsea’s website.
“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. We have spoken now, and I was only trying to say I’m fine. He thought I wasn’t fine.”
Sarri said he would talk to the Spaniard – who became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea for 80 million euros (US$90.75 million) last year – about what happened.
“I want to talk with him because he needs to understand that for a misunderstanding we can (get) in trouble, especially with you,” he told the reporters.
“So I think I have only to explain exactly the situation to Kepa, but without any other problem.”
Sarri denied suggestions he lost control of the situation.
“The players played exactly the match that we prepared yesterday. So I think that I am in full control of the situation,” he said.
The Italian, under intense pressure after heavy defeats including a 6-0 thrashing by Sunday’s opponents in the Premier League this month, said his tactics worked on Sunday when he ordered his team to play deeper and stop City’s flowing style.
“We conceded nothing to the best team in Europe,” he added.