LONDON – Kepa Arrizabalaga has been dropped by Maurizio Sarri for Chelsea’s clash with Tottenham on Wednesday as the Blues goalkeeper paid the price for his refusal to be substituted during the League Cup final.
Sarri opted to replace Kepa with Argentine veteran Willy Caballero for the crucial London derby at Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea boss was furious when Kepa ignored his decision to take him off after the Spaniard required treatment for cramp in the closing stages of Sunday’s penalty shoot-out defeat against Manchester City at Wembley.
Kepa apologised for his mutinous behaviour, and Sarri insisted it had been a “big misunderstanding”.
But the 24-year-old was still punished with a fine of one week’s wages by the Chelsea board on Monday, before being axed for Wednesday’s Premier League showdown.
Asked about his decision in a pre-match interview with BT Sport, Sarri: “It’s a choice. It’s a message for my group. That we are a group, and not 25 players. It’s my choice.”
Kepa is the world’s most expensive keeper after joining Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao for £71 million last year.
It remains to be seen if his demotion is a one-match slap on the wrist from Sarri.
He cut a forlorn figure as he took his turn going through warm-ups on the pitch before kickoff, alongside Caballero and Chelsea goalkeeping coaches.
Failure to regain his place in the long-term may force the volatile Spaniard to demand a transfer.
Adding to the intrigue, reports on Wednesday claimed Kepa had also clashed with Caballero after the final – allegedly telling the former Manchester City star he was the better keeper.
With Kepa exiled to the bench, his deputy Caballero, who had been left embarrassed on the touchline while he waited in vain to come on during the astonishing Wembley bust-up, was handed a rare call-up.
The 37-year-old was making only his eighth appearance this season and his first in the Premier League since Sarri took charge in July.
Caballero’s name was cheered by Chelsea fans when the team was read out over the tannoy before kickoff, and Sarri said: “I think he is ready, he has good experience. We are not worried with him.”AFP