Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said on Tuesday goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had made a big mistake refusing to be substituted during the League Cup final but he was young and the club’s intention was not to “kill him”.
Sarri — speaking on the eve of their Premier League clash with third-placed Tottenham Hotspur — reiterated the board’s ruling that Kepa be fined a week’s wages for the episode.
Kepa, the club’s record £71 million ($93 million) signing from Athletic Bilbao, refused to leave the field to be replaced by Willy Caballero.
Sarri then stormed off down the tunnel in anger before returning — Chelsea eventually lost to City on penalties.
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“I spoke with the goalkeeper, with Kepa, of course,” he said.
“Then we spoke altogether, because he said sorry to the technical staff, but it was not enough.
“Then he said sorry to his team-mates, to the club.
“I think he made a big mistake, but we need to be taller. We don’t want to kill him. So there is a position from the club.
“For me the situation is finished. He is a young player (24), he made a mistake, but stop.”
Sarri, though, would not confirm that Kepa would be between the goalposts against Spurs.
It is a pivotal match not only for Spurs and their battle for the title but for Sarri’s side’s three-way tussle with Arsenal and Manchester United for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
“I have to decide, maybe yes, maybe not,” said the 60-year-old Italian.
“It will be a decision for the group. For all the players.”
Sarri denied Kepa’s petulance and refusal to obey his orders reflected a greater malaise that he had lost the dressing-room.
“Did you see the match on Sunday? So you have the answer.
“After the game is the same. I think better,” said Sarri, whose side improved on their 6-0 league hammering by City a few weeks ago to only lose on penalties.
Asked if he felt the support of the players was now greater, Sarri said: “Yes.”
“I am not under pressure,” he added. “For me the pressure is a normal pressure.”