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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 March 2019

Kepa Arrizabalaga: Why the Chelsea goalkeeper should and shouldn't play against Tottenham

We look at the case for and against Maurizio Sarri picking the Spaniard against Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday after his League Cup final insubordination

As Kepa Arrizabalaga waved away his manager's request to substitute him in the final minutes of the League Cup final defeat to Manchester City, it was the ultimate act of public defiance and humiliation.

Much has been said since the scandalous incident at Wembley on Sunday, and Kepa has found him himself a week's wages lighter after the club fined him.

Maurizio Sarri, the Chelsea manager, has refused to confirm whether the club's record £71 million (Dh345.5m) signing from Athletic Bilbao will be picked for Wednesday night's vital Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur.

But what he has said is that "we don't want to kill him. So there is a position from the club".

Here, we take a look at the arguments for and against Arrizabalaga playing for against Spurs.

Yes, Arrizabalaga should retain his place as Chelsea's No 1

Any professional sportsman will vouch that things can go awry in the heat of the moment, especially in a draining cup final with the tension cranked up to maximum.

There is the small possibility that it was all just a misunderstanding - as Arrizabalaga claimed in his tweet after the match in which he said he thought Sarri wanted to take him off due to the injury he had just received treatment for.

Arrizabalaga only arrived in England from Spain last summer. His English is not what you would call fluent. Sarri, an Italian, is fluent enough in English to be able to conduct press conferences in the local language, but amid the arm waving and screaming, there is a chance that wires did in fact get crossed, although you would think assistant manager Gianfranco Zola would have been able to sort the situation out if language was proving a barrier.

Anyhow, Arrizabalaga has apologised to the manager and his teammates and there is the opportunity to move on from what was a disappointing enough episode without this added drama, having lost the final on penalties.

To keep him out in the cold will add to the immense pressure and speculation which has built up around Sarri in recent weeks in light of a string of bad results that leave them sixth in the Premier League.

Chelsea need to draw a line under all the talk of mutiny against the manager and get on with winning matches between now and the end of the season. Banishing Arrizabalaga will not help that.

Then there's the issue of who would replace him in goal? Willy Caballero is a fine penalty stopper, but he is second choice for a good reason, and anyone who has watched him flap about will understand why Sarri would be keen to retain Arrizabalaga in the starting XI.

Finally, there is the complication of Chelsea's transfer ban which currently rules the club out of signing players in the next two transfer windows for breaching rules in relation to youth players.

So, ditch Arrizabalaga and replace him with who between now and January 2020?

Ian Oxborrow

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Final - Manchester City v Chelsea - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 24, 2019 Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri protests with referee Jonathan Moss after he called Kepa Arrizabalaga to be substituted Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri protests with referee Jonathan Moss after he called Kepa Arrizabalaga to be substituted. Action Images via Reuters

No, Arrizabalaga should be dropped against Spurs

Mutiny or misunderstanding? Whatever your take on Arrizabalaga ignoring his manager's instructions, the one party who has been largely overlooked in all of this sorry mess is Caballero.

The backup goalkeeper was visibly upset and had to be consoled by the Chelsea team doctor after Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted, denying the Argentine any involvement in a major cup final at Wembley.

And while bringing on a goalkeeper for a shoot-out may seem unusual, it's not without precedent. Louis van Gaal famously replaced Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul in the 120th minute of the Netherlands' 2014 World Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica. Van Gaal later admitted it was purely tactical, deeming Krul a better bet from 12 yards than his first-choice keeper. It worked, too, as Krul saved two penalties to send the Dutch through to a semi-final against Argentina, where Cillessen kept his place in the starting XI.

Van Gaal said afterwards Krul was aware of the plan but Cillessen was kept in the dark. Cillessen's reaction was in marked contrast to that of Arrizabalaga's petulance. While no doubt disappointed to be taken off - as any player would be - at such a crucial time in an important match, Cillessen made way for his teammate and offered words of encouragement.

We will never know whether Caballero would have made a difference in the shoot-out. Arrizabalaga saved only one of City's five kicks but should reasonably have kept out Sergio Aguero's tame effort. Let's not forget he also saved Lucas Moura's spot kick in the shoot-out to send Chelsea through to the final at Tottenham's expense.

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Final - Manchester City v Chelsea - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 24, 2019 Chelsea's Willy Caballero waits to be substituted on Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Chelsea's Willy Caballero waits to be substituted on. Action Images via Reuters

Caballero's pedigree in shoot-outs is well documented, including three penalty saves in the 2016 final to help City beat Liverpool. Regardless of which goalkeeper is best at facing penalties, the fact remains Arrizabalaga refused a direct order from Sarri to vacate the pitch.

The goalkeeping fraternity is a sacred one, and it is testament to Cabellero's professionalism that he has kept his counsel. But he will have been livid at his teammate's behaviour. Arrizabalaga's insubordination towards his manager had a much crueler effect on his teammate by denying him a potential moment of glory.

All parties have made the right noises in trying to move on from a bad situation, but if Sarri wants to maintain a sense of team harmony, Caballero deserves to start against Spurs on Wednesday ahead of Arrizabalaga.

Steve Luckings

Updated: February 27, 2019 10:59 AM

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