There are plenty of things to talk about after Chelsea’s unlucky penalty shootout loss to Manchester City in the League Cup final, but the one obvious incident that’s dominating the early narratives is the remarkable situation between Kepa Arrizabalaga and the Chelsea bench, especially head coach Maurizio Sarri.
Kepa seemed to be struggling with either a cramp or an aggravation of the hamstring injury that kept him out midweek, but seemingly refused to obey Sarri, Zola, and the rest of the Chelsea bench, and leave the field to be replaced by Willy Caballero. Sarri went absolutely apoplectic on the touchline and for a second even looked like he was going to literally storm out of the stadium. Tempers eventually calmed and we carried on and Kepa even made a save in the shootout (and almost two!), so all is ... okay?
Sarri smoothed over the incident with a “misunderstanding” in his post-match comments, and Kepa has echoed that sentiment now as well, both in interviews and in an official statement released on social media.
“Upset and sad for not being able to take the title, we fought until the end against a great team. We will continue working to be stronger.
“I would also like to clarify some facts of today’s match:
“First of all I regret how the end of the match has been portrayed. At no time has it been my intention to disobey the coach or any of his decisions. I think everything has been misunderstood in the heat of the final part of a match for a title. The coach thought I was not in a position to play on and my intention was to express that I was in good condition to continue helping the team, while the docs that had treated me arrived at the bench to give the message. I feel the image that has been portrayed was not my intention. I have full respect for the coach and his authority.”
-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: Twitter
February 24, 2019
So, handled as well as possible in public given the circumstances.
Sarri and Kepa can continue to hash things out behind the scenes and we can move on, right?
“First of all, I have to say it was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss. Just that it was misunderstood, because I had been attended to by the medics twice, and he thought that I wasn’t in condition to continue. It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench, and they explained everything well.
“This was nothing to do with the problems I had this week, with [hamstring] it wasn’t that. And, well, it was misunderstood. Because he thought I couldn’t continue, and - fundamentally - I was trying to say that physically I was fine.
“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 but I am here to explain it, to say that it wasn’t my intention to go against the manager. We have spoken now, and I was only trying to say I’m fine. He thought I wasn’t fine.
“I don’t think it has to be the major act of this final. I understand we played a good level against one of the best teams in the world. We were close to winning, obviously we’re sad that we didn’t, and I think the team needs to continue playing like this, because today we’ve shown we can compete against the best teams. Among the negatives, we have to take the positives.”
-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: Chelsea FC
It’s certainly not a good look, but maybe we can chalk it up to Kepa wanting to finish out basically the biggest game of his life while showing some of the passion and fight and desire that has often been lacking from the Blues this season.
Onwards and upwards.