Kepa and Sarri: Just a “misunderstanding”?

In yesterday’s Carabao Cup Final, an incident took place that has people talking about it more than the actual result itself. Just moments before the match was about to proceed to penalties, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, refused to be substituted by manager Maurizio Sarri. After the match, Sarri downplayed the event as merely a “misunderstanding”. But should we buy this?

Not one bit. After watching the video of the events that unfolded, it gets clearer and clearer to me every time that Kepa refused to be substituted. Not that you need to watch it more than once to come to this understanding.

After the substitution is announced, Kepa shouts aggressively at Sarri, whilst waving his arms about in utter despair. Take a look at the crisis unfold in the video below.

If Kepa was just trying to tell the manager he was not injured, he would not have done what he did. He would have just informed the manager he was okay to carry on. But to literally shake his finger, shouting “No!”, is an outright refusal to leave the pitch. It is not totally clear if Sarri was substituting Kepa because of his injury or because he wanted Willy Caballero between the posts for the penalty shootout. After all, Caballero is known to be an expert penalty saver, ever since his heroic performance won Manchester City the League Cup in 2016. Bearing this in mind, there is certainly a good chance that Sarri wanted Caballero in goal for the penalties, regardless of Kepa’s injury. But even if we grant Kepa the benefit of the doubt, and pretend Sarri only wanted to substitute Kepa due to his injury, Kepa still acted appallingly.

Ultimately, Kepa has publicly humiliated Sarri, and his actions demonstrate a total lack of respect for his manager. Fair enough, Kepa thought he was able to play on, but to shout at Sarri like he’s a dog is evidence of Kepa assuming he has the authority. The biggest giveaway of a crisis at Chelsea though was Sarri’s reaction. To kick bottles over and get inches away from walking out of the stadium, shows just how fed up he is at Chelsea. Even if there was a “misunderstanding”, what’s for certain is that Kepa did not care what his manager asked of him, he still refused to leave the pitch.

Can Sarri continue as the manager of Chelsea FC?
In all honesty, I don’t think so. Other than David Luiz, none of the other Chelsea players made any effort to get Kepa to leave the pitch. They just watched on as their manager got humiliated in front of millions of people. And before you say it’s because they didn’t even know what was going on, they at least witnessed Kepa’s embarrassment of their manager. So the Chelsea players have either lost total respect for Sarri, or they are completely spineless. Either way, it’s not looking great for Chelsea.

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