The fallout from Chelsea’s 5-2 defeat at home against West Brom continues and Thomas Tuchel has confirmed reports that Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga had a heated disagreement in training, to put it politely.
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Rudiger, 28, was sent off the training pitch by the Chelsea coaching staff on Sunday and told to go inside their facility at Cobham by manager Tuchel.
It is believed Rudiger and Kepa pushed one another and had to be pulled apart after a heavy tackle from Rudiger in a five-a-side game, as the German center back was sent in from training early.
Tuchel confirmed the situation was serious enough for him and his staff to step in.
“We needed to interfere in the situation, so that was serious,” Tuchel said. “They cleared the air immediately and there was nothing left the day after.”
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“It got heated up between Toni and Kepa,” Tuchel added. “So we calmed the situation down immediately. The reaction was not OK. But how the guys handled the situation, especially Toni and Kepa, was amazing and showed how much respect they have for each other. They sorted it out straight after training in a very honest, humble and very direct way. That showed me they have very good character. Toni sorted it out directly, and it was a strong and brave thing to do.”
It is believed Rudiger apologized to Kepa afterwards, despite reported words between the pair taking place on the bench on Saturday during the game, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James were also reportedly arguing after the defeat to West Brom about a mistake from the Chelsea youngster.
Neither Rudiger or Kepa played in the heavy defeat at home to West Brom, the first defeat Tuchel has suffered in 15 games as Chelsea boss, with the former believed to be rested ahead of the Champions League quarterfinal v. FC Porto and the latter the second-choice goalkeeper behind Edouard Mendy.
Will this type of incident be a good or bad thing for Chelsea?
There are two ways to look at this: 1) Rudiger and Kepa are totally committed and are fully focused on helping Chelsea win trophies and finish in the top four this season. 2) The personalities of this group of players is a problem and clashes like this can escalate and spread throughout the team.
It seems like it will be the former. For now.
Tuchel demands total commitment to his methods and he seems like the type of manager who would encourage this kind of ‘management’ from his players, as long as they don’t go over the top.
Rudiger is a big personality and it is likely he, Azpilicueta and a few others will ‘set the tone’ for how Chelsea should respond to a heavy defeat to relegation fodder. Rudiger is a key player for Tuchel and this incident will underline to the younger players in the squad that the manner of the defeat to West Brom was not acceptable.
Let’s see if Tuchel can overcome the first bit of adversity he’s had to tackle since he took charge of Chelsea, and if the Blues’ star players can now pull together and prove the defeat to West Brom was just a minor hiccup.
These kind of incidents happen a lot on training grounds, but the timing of this particular bust-up is very interesting.