Maurizio Sarri did not guarantee that Kepa Arrizabalaga will be back between the sticks on Sunday when Chelsea take on Fulham at Craven Cottage, but having been fined, dropped, made to apologize and reflect on his behavior repeatedly, the young man remains the first-choice goalkeeper at the club, perhaps just a bit wiser to the world in the process.
“It was the right decision [to drop him], Kepa made a big mistake. He paid with the club and now the team. Kepa for tomorrow will be with us. I don’t know if the next match he will be with us, but in one of the next two for sure.
“We cannot kill him. When you are young you make mistakes, but you need to understand. Of course [he remains first-choice].”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London
With Kepa on the bench, the man almost twice his age and the man who was stood up at the substitution altar on the weekend, Willy Caballero got a rare Premier League start — his first of the season and fourth of his Chelsea career. Incidentally, one of those previous starts was this same fixture least season, when Spurs won at the Bridge for the first time in 28 years. Normal service resumed today, and Caballero didn’t even have to make a save.
If Willy has any lingering resentment over the evens of Sunday — tabloids claimed that there was a “stand-up row” between the two goalkeepers afterwards, which sounds bogus but you never know — he certainly didn’t show it in his post-match comments.
“A clean sheet and to play for me is a satisfaction. We spoke about what happened the other day. The good news is that it doesn’t matter what happened. We are ready. Kepa was fantastic today supporting me. He’s learned, we learned, and we are improving as a team.”
-Wilfredo Caballero; source: BT Sport via Goal
Caballero has been a model professional and as good a backup as anyone could ask for since joining 18 months ago. Today was no exception; tomorrow won’t be either.
Whether Kepa returns on Sunday or just next Thursday in the first leg of the Round of 16 Europa League match against Dynamo Kiev, this whole matter is now hopefully truly settled, closed, and over.