Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri has said that his row with Kepa Arrizabalaga during the Carabao Cup final loss to Manchester City is useful in uniting his squad. The world’s most expensive goalkeeper refused to be substituted in remarkable scenes last Sunday when struggling with injury, leaving Sarri raging on the touchline. Chelsea lost on penalties as Pep Guardiola’s outfit defended their title and Kepa has since been fined a week’s wages by Stamford Bridge chiefs. Sarri dropped the 24-year-old Spaniard as Chelsea bounced back with a 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League to keep their hopes of finishing in the top-four alive – a match where several players believed the manager would have been sacked in defeat.
But while it was suggested the Italian had completely lost the dressing room after the row with his goalkeeper, Sarri believes the incident has surprisingly brought the team together.
‘When there is a difficult situation, I think it’s very difficult for everybody,’ Sarri said. ‘But it’s a big opportunity, also. You have to take that opportunity. Of course, it was really a very bad experience, but I think we can come out of this situation better than before. When there is a very difficult experience you can come out always different than before: better or worse. I think that, from this situation, we came out better. For the players, I think it was an experience useful for staying more united.
‘Also for me. Also for me, with my staff and players. We are more compact. It’s expected that Kepa will regain his place in the starting XI for the west London derby against Fulham on Sunday. As I said in the press conference after the match, the Kepa situation now is closed,’ Sarri added. ‘Kepa is our first-choice goalkeeper. But we are very happy for Willy [Caballero]. Because now we know very well that he’s able to play in a very difficult match.
‘So I don’t know: I’m sure that in one of the next two matches, Kepa will be on the pitch. At the moment, no [hasn’t decided if Kepa will start]. I want to see the last two training sessions, of course, but for every player.
‘On Sunday, we played for 130 minutes. And 95 minutes on Wednesday. So we need to value the recovery because we ran for 15km on Sunday on average, and the average in the last match was 12km. So we need to consider that.’