Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 October 2019

Explainer: Why Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted in the League Cup final

A look at the extraordinary scenes at Wembley Stadium on Sunday as Chelsea's goalkeeper committed apparent insubordination against his manager during the clash with Manchester City

Chelsea's goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, right, refused to be substituted during the League Cup final against Chelsea. EPA
Chelsea's goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, right, refused to be substituted during the League Cup final against Chelsea. EPA

Manchester City won the League Cup final on Sunday for the second successive year as they defeated Chelsea 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw.

But it was not the latest success for Pep Guardiola's side that had the footballing world talking post-match.

Instead all the focus was on the extraordinary incident in the closing stages of extra time that saw Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refuse to come off the pitch and be substituted.

Here is a breakdown of the events, the reaction to it and what is next for the Premier League club and their beleaguered manager Maurizio Sarri.

Why were Chelsea trying to make the change?

Arrizabalaga had gone down injured in the closing minutes of the additional 30 minutes of extra time with what appeared to be cramp.

Sarri, watching on from the touchline, decided to use the last of his available substitutions to bring on reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero to replace Arrizabalaga for the penalties.

This would have be an interesting development as Caballero was formerly on City's books and the Premier League champions would have been well aware of his spot-kick saving prowess, given it was his saves in the 2016 League Cup final shoot-out that saw them win the trophy against Liverpool.

Arrizabalaga refuses to come off

Caballero was out of his tracksuit and in his goalkeeping kit on the touchline and ready to come on. Only one problem. Arrizabalaga was not having any of it. Back on his feet, he furiously waved his arms in protest and stood in his penalty area.

Defender David Luiz came back to talk to him, while Sarri and Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea's assistant manager, urged the 24-year-old Spaniard to leave the pitch.

But Arrizabalaga stood his ground and, after conversing with referee Jon Moss, Sarri cancelled the substitution and a bemused Caballero was left standing by the side of the pitch.

Aftermath

To say Sarri was upset would be an understatement. He threw his arms up in anger, shouting at his club staff and then appeared to consider walking back to the dressing room, before thinking better of it and coming back to the touchline. But it did appear to take him some minutes to compose himself enough to talk to his players, and Arrizabalaga, before the penalties took place.

Penalties go City's way

It will now be one of the great what if questions at Chelsea. Would Caballero have done better then Arrizabalaga?

Arrizabalaga saved one of City's kicks, palming away Leroy Sane's effort, but was beaten with the other four, and will have nightmares for a while about allowing Sergio Aguero's timid effort, City's second in the shootout, to slip through his fingers.

Aguero's grin as he walked back to the centre circle screamed he knew he had gotten away with one after failing to get much power on his effort.

City won the shootout 4-3 as Chelsea's Jorginho had his effort saved by Ederson and David Luiz hit the post.

'Misunderstanding'

Predictably all everyone wanted to know about post-match was the Arrizabalaga incident, and Sarri, clearly in a calmer frame of mind, looked to play down the row.

"It was a big misunderstanding, I understood that he had cramp so I didn't want the goalkeeper to go to the penalties in that physical condition," Sarri said. "Then I realised the situation when only the doctor arrived to the bench after four minutes and in the meantime I wanted Caballero on the pitch.

"The goalkeeper only wanted to let me know that he was in condition to go to the penalties. It was a big misunderstanding."

'I have full respect for the coach'

Arrizabalaga apologised on social media following the game for the incident, and shared Sarri's view it had simply been a mix up.

"At no time has it been my intention to disobey the coach or any of his decisions," he said.

"I think everything has been misunderstood in the heat of the final part of a match for the title.

"The coach thought I was not in a position to play on and my intention was to express that I was in good condition to continue helping the team, while the docs that had treated me arrived at the bench to give the message.

"I feel the image that has been portrayed was not my intention. I have full respect for the coach and his authority."

'Wrong in the way he conducted himself'

Sarri added: "Kepa was right, but wrong in the way he conducted himself.

"Mentally he was right, he was able to go to the penalties. He was right for the motivation but not for the conduct.

"I was really angry. I want to talk with him because he needs to understand that we can get in trouble, especially with you (the media).

"I have to explain the situation to Kepa but without any other problem."

'Proud of my players'

The incident only heightens speculation that Sari has lost the Chelsea dressing room. Only Luiz appeared to get involved, of the players on the field, once it became clear that Arrizabalaga was ignoring an order from the bench.

But Sarri said the fact his side had battled so well against City, having lost 6-0 to them in the league 13 days earlier, showed they were still working for him.

"They played exactly what I asked," he said. "Today I am proud of my players.

"I think in the last three matches we are improving, we have improved a lot.

"Today we showed to everyone that we could become a very solid team, because we conceded nothing to the opponents, against Man City that is not easy. So I'm really very happy with my players and today I'm proud of my players."

What is next for Chelsea?

Sarri will face the media again on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's home league game with Tottenham Hotspur.

He did his best on Sunday to try and defuse the incident, but it will only be when the team sheet for the side to face Spurs is published on Wednesday if there are any repercussions for Arrizabalaga's apparent insubordination.

Updated: February 25, 2019 07:26 PM

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