LONDON – Maurizio Sarri insists Kepa Arrizabalaga is still Chelsea's first choice goalkeeper despite dropping the rebellious Spaniard for Wednesday's 2-0 win over Tottenham.
Sarri axed Kepa following his star's astonishing mutiny in the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday when he refused to be substituted after suffering an extra-time injury at Wembley.
With Argentine veteran Willy Caballero in goal while Kepa languished on the bench, Sarri's side recorded a vital Premier League victory against their London rivals at Stamford Bridge.
Kepa was fined one week's wages by Chelsea for his behaviour, but Sarri appeared keen to draw a line under the damaging row when he faced the media after the Tottenham game.
Asked if Kepa was still his number one, Sarri said: “Of course. I think it was the right decision. Kepa made a big mistake, he paid with the club and then he had to pay with the team.
“Caballero is a good goalkeeper with great experience and he's a great man for us, he's very confident on the pitch and in the dressing room.
“But now I think we have to stop. From tomorrow he will be with us.
“I don't know if he will be on the pitch in the next match, but in one of the next two for sure.”
Chelsea face Fulham on Sunday and then Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League the following week.
Sarri didn't make it clear which game Kepa would play in, meaning the world's most expensive goalkeeper will have to wait to see if his 'first choice' status is now limited to non-Premier League matches.
That would be a big call from Sarri, who is fighting to save his job after a dismal first season in charge and couldn't afford to let such a challenge to his authority go unchecked.
After making his point to his team, Sarri is now playing the peace-maker.
“We cannot kill him. When you are young you can make mistakes,” he said. “The most important thing is you need to understand after every mistake. For me the question is closed.”
Sarri revealed he didn't speak to Kepa one to one, preferring to let him find out he had been dropped in a team meeting.
“I didn't tell him anything. On the matchday I don't speak to players in an individual way. I only speak with the team. He found out in the meeting,” Sarri added.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)