In Depth

Kepa vs. Sarri reactions: mutiny and anarchy on Chelsea’s sinking ship

Chelsea goalkeeper is fined a week’s wages for refusing to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final

2019 Carabao Cup finalChelsea 0 Manchester City 0 (City win 4-3 on penalties)

There was only one story dominating Monday morning’s newspapers in the UK and it came from the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City retained the league cup with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory but the headlines went to Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga who refused to be substituted during extra-time of Sunday’s final.

With his No.1 suffering from cramp in the final minutes of extra-time, and with penalties looming, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri instructed his substitute stopper Willy Caballero to prepare to come on for 24-year-old Kepa.

As Caballero waited on the touchline for his introduction and with Kepa’s number on the board indicating him to come off, what happened next stunned the world of football.   

Kepa, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, refused to leave the pitch and in reaction an angry Sarri went into meltdown mode on the touchline and even threatened to walk down the tunnel in disgust before returning to the dugout.

After extra-time the match finished 0-0 and City went on to win the penalty shoot-out 4-3. However, the Kepa-Sarri incident has been the only thing football fans and pundits have talked about since.

Here we look at what the Chelsea manager and goalkeeper said after the final, what happens next for the Stamford Bridge club and how the media reported the “non-substitution”.

Fine and apology

On Monday evening Chelsea confirmed that Kepa has been fined a week’s wages for his behaviour at Wembley. The fine will be donated to the Chelsea Foundation.

In a statement the Spaniard apologised for his actions and said: “I was very happy to play in my first cup final for Chelsea and very proud of the team performance.

“I have thought a lot more about yesterday’s events. Although there was a misunderstanding, on reflection, I made a big mistake with how I handled the situation.

“I wanted to take the time to apologise fully and in person to the coach, to Willy, my team-mates and to the club.

“I have done this and now I want to offer the same apology to the fans. I will learn from this episode and will accept any punishment or discipline the club decides is appropriate.”

Sarri added: “Kepa and I have spoken about the incident. It was a good conversation. There was a misunderstanding but he realises he made a big mistake in the way he reacted. He has apologised to me, his team-mates and the club. It is up to the club if they want to discipline him according to the club rules, but for me this matter is now closed.

“The team performance as a whole was extremely positive and it is a shame to see how this incident has overshadowed our efforts in what was a very competitive cup final. Everyone’s focus is now on the next game and we must all now put this behind us.”

Will Kepa be dropped?

Chelsea play Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday and CNN’s Matias Grez asks if Italian boss Sarri will allow Kepa’s act of disrespect to slide and select the goalkeeper for the London derby at Stamford Bridge?

The Daily Mirror’s football writers also have their say on the matter and there was mixed reactions to the question “should Maurizio Sarri drop his goalkeeper for Chelsea vs. Spurs?” Answering no, Mirror writer Andy Dunn said: “As unforgivable as Kepa’s actions were, the post-match stance of Sarri means the pair just have to move on.”

However, Mike Walters says Kepa should “absolutely” be dropped for the Spurs game. He wrote: “Who’s running this show? Who’s driving this bus? And who will get sacked when results don’t go as required? Never mind who’s the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Sarri needs to show who’s the boss.”

Pundit reactions

Jermaine Jenas, BBC

“For one of the players to really go against Sarri on such a public stage doesn’t sit well with me. The fact he went inside and was not out there with his players is one thing, but it has to be infuriating for one of your players to categorically tell you to do one and say I’m staying on this pitch. It happened, it’s not pretty. This is a huge blemish. It all boils down to what is going on between Sarri and his players. That does not happen - there’s a lack of respect someway along the line.”

Chelsea legend John Terry, Sky Sports

“It’s a cloud over the Chelsea performance after they played and performed so well. It will be interesting to see if Kepa plays the next game. If I was in the dressing room I would expect the manager to come in and deal with it straight away.”

Chris Sutton, former Chelsea striker, BBC Radio 5 live

“Kepa should never play for Chelsea again - that should be his last performance in a Chelsea shirt. He’s a disgrace. I’ve never seen anything like it. If I was Sarri I would walk. You cannot be undermined. Why weren’t the players dragging Kepa off anyway? Kepa should be sacked, not Sarri.”

Phil McNulty, BBC chief football writer

“It was an ugly rebellion that exposed all the fractures in Sarri’s Chelsea regime - and was a new one even on those of us who have travelled the world and seen most things the game has to offer, good and bad. Chelsea’s loss is almost a side issue to the questions raised by Kepa’s behaviour and the damage this has done to Sarri inside his own dressing room and even higher up inside Stamford Bridge. Let’s get one thing straight. The first fault lies with the player - if you are told you are being substituted you go off. You may not like it but you go off.”

Jose Mourinho, former Chelsea and Man Utd manager, DAZN

“Luckily I never had to live through anything like this. I think on the one hand the goalkeeper wants to show his personality, his confidence, and wants to say ‘I’m here, I want to go to penalties and save them, and I am here with the confidence that I will go and do it’. And this is what I like. But then I don’t really like that he [Kepa] leaves the manager, the coaches and everyone else in a very fragile situation, also including one of his own team-mates who was ready to enter the pitch. Eventually we saw how he [Caballero] was thrown into a mess that he wasn’t really part of. It saddens me, because it’s a really complicated situation.”

Alistair Tweedale, The Daily Telegraph

“Many feel Sarri’s authority has been undermined irrevocably, and if he chooses to leave Kepa out of the team, it may only push him further towards the exit as the club is forced to choose between under-pressure manager and their expensive investment in goal. It looks something like an impossible situation for the Italian who, it is easy to forget, also lost a cup final somewhere in this mess.”

Barney Ronay, The Guardian

“Watching this it was impossible not to feel a curling of the toes. In the under-12s Arrizabalaga would have been led off by the referee or his mum. At Chelsea he stayed on, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper under a manager still paddling for air. How is this one going to play out?”

Ruud Gullit, former Chelsea manager, speaking to the BBC

“The captain [Cesar Azpilicueta] should have gone up to him and said ‘go off’. This is just a political answer for the newspapers so there is no confusion the next day. Everybody knows what happened. The way he [Sarri] reacted on the touchline says everything.”

How the UK media reported the incident


2021 Ryder Cup: players, tee times and TV coverage
The opening ceremony for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits
In Depth

2021 Ryder Cup: players, tee times and TV coverage

Saracens’ triumphant return to Premiership Rugby
Alex Lozowski’s kicking performance was ‘sensational’
In Focus

Saracens’ triumphant return to Premiership Rugby

‘Netflix of sport’ DAZN in advanced talks to buy BT Sport 
DAZN cameraman
In Focus

‘Netflix of sport’ DAZN in advanced talks to buy BT Sport 

Peloton checks in to hotels and health clubs for future growth 
Peloton exercise bikes
In Focus

Peloton checks in to hotels and health clubs for future growth 

Popular articles

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying
The feet of a person sleeping in a bed
Tall Tales

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying

Penguins ‘might be aliens’
Tall Tales

Penguins ‘might be aliens’

The most extreme weather events in 2021
Wildfire in Greece
In pictures

The most extreme weather events in 2021

The Week Footer Banner