We don't want to kill sorry Kepa: Sarri

Kepa Arrizabalaga going the wrong way as a penalty from Manchester City's Bernardo Silva goes past him during Chelsea's penalty shoot-out defeat in Sunday's League Cup final. Coach Maurizio Sarri is yet to decide whether the Spaniard will retain his
Kepa Arrizabalaga going the wrong way as a penalty from Manchester City's Bernardo Silva goes past him during Chelsea's penalty shoot-out defeat in Sunday's League Cup final. Coach Maurizio Sarri is yet to decide whether the Spaniard will retain his place in Chelsea's goal against Tottenham after the player refused to be substituted in extra time of the final.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea boss keen to move on from spat but undecided if 'keeper will start against Spurs

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has yet to decide if Kepa Arrizabalaga will start today's Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur, with the beleaguered Chelsea head coach to make his decision for the collective good of his group.

Arrizabalaga apologised to Sarri, the technical staff, teammates and supporters on Monday for refusing to be substituted in the final minute of extra time in the League Cup final defeat by Manchester City on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Spaniard, who saved one penalty and might have denied Sergio Aguero in the shoot-out, was fined a week's wages around £190,000 (S$337,700) for an act of petulance which had very publicly undermined Sarri's authority.

Chelsea had been keen to draw a line under the incident, issuing statements on Monday from the head coach and player while confirming the sanction.

Yet Sarri, who goes into the Spurs fixture fighting to retain his position after recent damaging results, offered the world's most expensive goalkeeper no guarantees that he would retain his place.

Asked whether Arrizabalaga would start, the Italian said: "I don't know. I have to decide. Maybe yes. Maybe no. I think he is fit. 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."

Sarri, who tends to reveal his selections to his team close to kick-off, rejected the notion that Arrizabalaga's dissent had exposed a lack of respect in which the head coach is held by the senior squad, and insisted he remained in control.

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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.

MAURIZIO SARRI, Chelsea manager, on Kepa disobeying a substitution order during the League Cup final defeat.

"It was a very unusual situation so the players were very shocked. It was impossible to react immediately," said the 60-year-old.

"I spoke to Kepa, I spoke to everyone. He said sorry to the technical staff, but it wasn't enough.

"He said sorry to the players and the club. We don't want to kill him."

The League Cup final loss to City and Chelsea's poor league form, with three losses in the last four matches, has heaped pressure on Sarri, but the former Napoli boss is not worried about his future.

"I'm not under pressure, you have to ask the club. I don't know why you ask me. I want to win every match," he said.

Defender David Luiz insisted that the players are still on Sarri's side.

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

"For me, there is not a problem here for that. We all believe in his philosophy, we all believe in the way he wants us to play."

A defeat by Spurs could leave the Blues six points adrift of the top four. They are sixth on 50 points, 10 behind third-placed Tottenham and they trail Arsenal, in fourth, by three.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, has accepted an Football Association (FA) charge of improper conduct for confronting referee Mike Dean after last Saturday's shock 2-1 Premier League defeat, ostensibly over the corner that led to Burnley's opening goal.

The Argentinian was charged over two breaches of the FA's Rule E3, which concerns general behaviour and faces the prospect of a fine or a touchline ban.

He has publicly apologised to Dean.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'We don't want to kill sorry Kepa: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe