Sarri Mess For Chelsea Ahead Of Tottenham Clash, Kepa Fined

Feb 26 - by AFP for SportPesa News

The Blues have lost four of their last seven games, a painful period that has seen them drop to sixth in the Premier League, crash out of the FA Cup and lose the League Cup final

Chelsea Manager Maurizio Sarri shakes hands with Eden Hazard before the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England. PHOTO/GettyImages

  • All eyes will be on the Chelsea team sheet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to see whether the fall-out from Maurizio Sarri's astonishing row with Kepa Arrizabalaga drags on into the crucial London derby against Tottenham
  • Chelsea boss Sarri was furious when Blues goalkeeper Kepa refused to be substituted after needing treatment in the closing stages of Sunday's League Cup final against Manchester City
  • Arrizabalaga was fined a week's wages and apologised for his actions, while Sarri blamed a "misunderstanding" and said he had had a "good conversation" with the goalkeeper

LONDON, United Kingdom- All eyes will be on the Chelsea team sheet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to see whether the fall-out from Maurizio Sarri's astonishing row with Kepa Arrizabalaga drags on into the crucial London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea boss Sarri was furious when Blues goalkeeper Kepa refused to be substituted after needing treatment in the closing stages of Sunday's League Cup final against Manchester City.

Chelsea eventually lost 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw, but that blow paled in comparison to the problems caused by Kepa's rebellious behaviour and Sarri's raging response on the Wembley touchline.

Sarri was already fighting to avoid the sack amid reports the Italian has lost the backing of his players due to his stubborn tactics, dull training methods and habit of publicly criticising them.

Arrizabalaga was fined a week's wages and apologised for his actions, while Sarri blamed a "misunderstanding" and said he had had a "good conversation" with the goalkeeper.

But the sight of Kepa staging a mutiny in the middle of Chelsea's biggest game of the season laid bare the problems Sarri has been struggling to resolve.

He tried to regain control of the situation by claiming the incident was caused by a delay in getting information from the team doctor about the extent of Kepa's injury.

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That hardly excused Kepa from such disrespectful behaviour and few could have been convinced by the Spaniard's insistence his actions were misinterpreted because he had no intention of disobeying Sarri.

Meanwhile, watching Sarri rip open his training top and storm down the tunnel during the Kepa row hardly inspired confidence that he has the composure required to navigate such a treacherous predicament.

He looks set to remain in charge for the Tottenham match at least.

Now the question is whether Sarri will allow the 'keeper to retain his place in the team.

"What he has to do now is to make sure Kepa knows that he was in the wrong," former Chelsea star Pat Nevin said. 

"That absolutely does weaken his position and make it look as if the player had more power than him."

Letting Kepa get away with such insubordination would be a huge gamble, even though Blues defender David Luiz insists Chelsea's stars still respect Sarri.

"I'm sure if Kepa knew the coach wished to change him he would have come off because he is a great professional. He is a great boy and would respect that," Luiz said.

"The coach has the power over the group. He has our respect."

Sarri's team have lost four of their last seven games, a painful period that has seen them drop to sixth in the Premier League, crash out of the FA Cup and lose the League Cup final.

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 It is even more frustrating for Sarri as Chelsea's dismal run started just after they showed signs of a revival by beating Tottenham in the League Cup semi-final.

That rare success is a distant memory now and Sarri must hope the Wembley fiasco can somehow trigger a seige mentality in his team.

With Chelsea already three points adrift of fourth place, another defeat could be the end for the Sarri era after less than a season.

Meanwhile, Mike Dean has been removed from fourth official duties at the Bridge to avoid further conflict with Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino marched across the pitch following Saturday's defeat at Burnley to confront Dean in a heated exchange that earned him an improper conduct charge from the Football Association.

Pochettino was seething about key decisions that contributed to Tottenham's first defeat in five league games.

Tottenham are six points behind leaders Liverpool, but the one bright spot was Harry Kane's goal-scoring return after six weeks out with an ankle injury.

"We don't always want to be having to react from a poor result. But we'll dust it off. We've still got a lot to play for," Kane said.

"We're in the hunt for the Premier League, we're still in the Champions League so we're in a good place."

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been fined a week's wages by the club after defying manager Maurizio Sarri and refusing to be substituted during the League Cup final on Sunday.

"Although there was a misunderstanding, on reflection, I made a big mistake with how I handled the situation," Kepa said in a statement on Chelsea's website which announced the fine.

The club simultaneously published a statement from Sarri in which the manager said the pair had spoken following the row, which occurred in extra time of the match which Manchester City won on penalties.

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"He has apologised to me, his team-mates and the club," said Sarri.

"It is up to the club if they want to discipline him according to the club rules, but for me this matter is now closed."

Sarri, who reacted furiously when Kepa refused to be substituted after needing treatment in the closing stages, said the incident had been a "misunderstanding".

"There was a misunderstanding yesterday but (Kepa) realises he made a big mistake in the way he reacted.

"The team performance as a whole was extremely positive and it is a shame to see how this incident has overshadowed our efforts in what was a very competitive cup final."

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.

"I wanted to take the time today to apologise fully and in person to the coach, to Willy, my team-mates and to the club," said Kepa, 24, whose fine will be donated to the Chelsea foundation.

"I have done this and now I want to offer the same apology to the fans. I will learn from this episode and will accept any punishment or discipline the club decides is appropriate."

Sarri is under increasing pressure with Chelsea losing four of their past seven games in a run that has seen them drop to sixth in the Premier League, crash out of the FA Cup and lose the League Cup final.

There is little time for Sarri and his team to regroup with third-placed London rivals Tottenham Hotspur visiting Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in the Premier League.