Chelsea fined goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga one week’s wages for his refusal of a substitution in the dying minutes of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Many wondered whether that would be all the punishment Maurizio Sarri would dish out for an act of clear defiance.
That would not be all the punishment for the 24-year-old.
Maurizio Sarri has left Kepa on the bench for the enormous Premier League match against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, naming Willy Caballero to the starting lineup. The game kicks off at 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.
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Caballero was left befuddled on the touchline on Sunday during Kepa’s antics, dressed and ready to come on after the Spaniard was apparently injured moments earlier. However, Kepa popped up and wildly waved Sarri off who was prepared to bring on the backup with penalties looming. Kepa then failed to slow Manchester City in the shootout, most notably seeing Sergio Aguero’s effort slip straight through his hands after reaching the shot.
In his pre-match media opportunities, Sarri was asked extensively about the situation, and claimed that he had not made a decision on whether to start or sit Kepa moving forward, but that his decision either way needs to “send a message to my group.” He also said that he did not want to over-punish Kepa and that “we don’t want to kill him” for making a mistake.
In the immediate aftermath of the match, Sarri called the whole situation a “misunderstanding” and explained that he believed Kepa to be injured, while the player was not refusing a substitute, but instead simply gesturing that he was fit enough to continue.
Player discipline aside, the decision is a massive one given the stakes of the game. The pressure has already been applied to Sarri for the last few weeks with Chelsea’s league form dipping and the club dropping to sixth in the Premier League table. Spurs, meanwhile, will feel the need to win if its slim title hopes are to remain, giving the match an even bigger edge.