Chelsea boss Sarri: We don't want to 'kill' Kepa after substitution fiasco
LONDON -- Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has not decided whether Kepa Arrizabalaga will play against Tottenham on Wednesday but said he did not want to "kill" him for refusing to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final.
On Tuesday, Chelsea said goalkeeper Kepa had been fined a week's wages for waving away Sarri's attempts to sub him in the closing stages of extra time against Manchester City at Wembley.
The goalkeeper -- who was unable to prevent Chelsea from losing the final on penalties -- issued a statement apologising for "a big mistake," and Sarri said he wanted to move on.
"I spoke with Kepa of course, then we spoke all together," the coach told a news conference ahead of the Spurs game.
"He said sorry to the technical staff, but it's not enough. Then he said sorry to the teammates, to the club. He made a big mistake, but we need to be taller. We don't want to kill him.
"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 to be on the bench, he has to be on the bench.
"After yesterday, the situation, for me, is over. He's a young player, he made a mistake, we stop. For me, it's finished."
Kepa's refusal to be substituted was widely interpreted as the latest example of the player power that has undermined previous Chelsea coaches. Sarri insisted his authority in the dressing room has not been diminished, but admitted his choice of goalkeeper against Spurs will be more than a selection decision.
"I have to decide for my group," he added. "I want to send a message to my group. The message could be Kepa is on the pitch, or Kepa is out the pitch."
Asked if he still has the respect of his players, Sarri replied: "Did you see the match on Sunday? So you have the answer. After the game is the same. No, I think better."
Several reports this week have claimed that Sarri wanted to bring on Willy Caballero as a tactical change to make use of his superior record of saving penalties and familiarity with City's takers, but the Chelsea head coach reiterated he was worried only about Kepa's fitness.
"I didn't want a goalkeeper with cramp on penalties," he explained. "Then, Caballero knows very well the other players. He played in Manchester. And so, I think it was better with the goalkeeper in very good physical condition.
"Then I understood that he was able to go to the penalties. I know very well that penalties are a lottery."
The failure of Kepa's teammates to intervene on Sarri's behalf at Wembley has also come under scrutiny, with Chelsea's captain on the pitch Cesar Azpilicueta attracting particular criticism for his passive role.
Sarri, however, does not blame Azpilicueta or anyone else in his team. "It was really a very unusual situation, so I think the players were really very shocked," he insisted. "It was impossible to react immediately, I think, like on the bench," he added.
"It was only a big misunderstanding, so I have to value the performance. And they played with a very great level of application, with a great level of determination and aggression. This is really very important [for the future]."