In the much-publicised battle of the Chelsea dressing room, Maurizio Sarri has claimed that the situation is now ‘better’ following Kepa Arrizabalaga’s reaction to his substitution at Wembley on Sunday. The shocking episode, which occurred just before the end of extra time in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup Final defeat to Manchester City, saw the growing tensions around the club seemingly reach a breaking point. As Kepa refused to leave the pitch for Willy Caballero, Sarri turned his back and began to walk down the tunnel. Although the Italian did perform a U-turn and see out the match, later down-playing the whole incident, questions have been asked as to whether the perceived player power in the Chelsea dressing room has erupted into full-blown mutiny.
Sarri, however, has unequivocally denied reports that he has lost the dressing room, stating, as quoted by the Evening Standard: “Did you see the match on Sunday? So you have the answer. After the game is the same. No, I think better.”
Chelsea performed amicably at Wembley, taking the ‘best team in Europe’ to the lottery of penalties, before finally suffering a dramatic defeat. The performance appears to have bought Sarri another chance, but some within the club still believe that the Italian could be sacked if his side loses to Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
Despite the major potential implications, Sarri is yet to decide on the status of his number one keeper.The Chelsea boss added: “I don’t know (if he will play), I have to decide. Maybe yes. Maybe no. I think he is fit. Yesterday he had only a recovery training session, so we have to assess him today, but I think so.
“(But) I have to decide for my group. Not with my group. I want to send a message to my group. The message could be Kepa is on the pitch, or Kepa is out the pitch. I have to decide what is better for my group.“He has to (be mentally ready to play). 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 is now at a crucial crossroads in his Chelsea career, in which he must juggle the task of asserting control over the dressing room, while also giving his side the best chance of claiming three points in what will be a crucial London derby.