Maurizio Sarri set to AXE Kepa to send clear message to Chelsea squad over player control



Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2019 by Express.co.uk

MAURIZIO SARRI is ready to bin goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for tonight’s game against Tottenham to send a message to the rest of his squad about who’s in charge.

The Chelsea manager will make his final team selection today but said his goalkeeper choice would be “a decision for the group, for all of the players”.

Arrizabalaga was fined a week’s wages by the club and apologised to Sarri and his team-mates for his conduct in insisting he was fit and refusing to come off when the Chelsea manager wanted to replace him late in extra time during the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

But Sarri - who for the first time admitted that substitute Willy Caballero’s knowledge of the penalty-taking habits of his former City team-mates was also part of his thinking behind attempting a switch - hinted that would not be the end of the punishment.

"I want to send a message to my group,” he said. “The message could be Kepa is on the pitch, or Kepa is out the pitch. I have to decide what is better for my group.

"He made a mistake. A big mistake. There are some consequences. If the consequence is to play, he has to be ready to play. If the consequence is the bench, he has to be ready to go to the bench.

"Willy Caballero is a very good goalkeeper and he’s a great man. He is a point of reference in the dressing-room, of course, for his personality and for his behaviour.

"So I think that he has the maturity to be ready for everything.”

Sarri’s stern words could merely be a charade designed just to fire a shot across the bows of a player the Italian knows he needs to keep Chelsea in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

Maurizio Sarri set to AXE Kepa to send clear message to Chelsea squad over player control
Kepa refused to come off when Sarri wanted him to be substituted for Willy Caballero (Image: GETTY )

Maurizio Sarri set to AXE Kepa to send clear message to Chelsea squad over player control
Kepa signed for Chelsea last summer for a world record goalkeeper fee of £72m (Image: GETTY )

Maurizio Sarri set to AXE Kepa to send clear message to Chelsea squad over player control
Maurizio Sarri branded the debacle a 'misunderstanding' (Image: GETTY )

Maurizio Sarri set to AXE Kepa to send clear message to Chelsea squad over player control
Kepa may not start against Tottenham on Wednesday (Image: GETTY )

"The goalkeeper is not a problem,” Sarri insisted. “He made a big mistake, but he is really a very nice boy.

"There is only one difficult: the results. The problem now is to have results with consistency.”

The toxic atmosphere at Stamford Bridge against Sarri in the recent home game against Manchester United in the FA Cup adds to the pressure on his head, and with the board monitoring developments closely through director Marina Granovskaia, the axe could even by swung if the Blues suffer another bad home defeat tonight.

"I spoke with Marina this week, before the final, just for good luck,” Sarri said. “I spoke to Marina after the match about the Kepa situation. My relationship with the club is like before.”

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