But Kepa Arrizabalaga’s act of defiance, refusing to be substituted during extra-time, meant that the Carabao Cup final ended in anything but routine fashion.
The £71million stopper, Kepa vehemently protested the decision and while Chelsea’s Italian manager was livid, he relented and allowed the Spaniard to remain on the field.
Utterly bizarre, it appeared to be player power at its peak, an under-pressure manager having his authority called into question – and the world seemingly being shown that he lacks any.
Both have tried to play down the incident post-game, but it has only exacerbated the current problems at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are next in action on Wednesday night, when they return to home soil to face Tottenham , in a game in which Sarri’s men can ill-afford to drop points in their bid to finish in the top four.
But should the world’s most expensive goalkeeper start? Or should he be left out, after his petulant display at Wembley?
Our Mirror Football writers have their say…
Andy Dunn – No
Maurizio Sarri has said it was a ‘misunderstanding’ and, even though no-one believes him, you do not drop someone because of a misunderstanding.
You could well drop him for somehow allowing Sergio Aguero’s soft penalty to squeeze beneath him but if you have publicly exonerated him, how can you now discipline him?
As unforgivable as Kepa’s actions were, the post-match stance of Sarri means the pair just have to move on.
Mike Walters – YES
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.
And while he’s about it, he can tell Cesar Azpilicueta – a fine player who is much-admired at Stamford Bridge – that, as captain, he is the manager’s senior delegate on the pitch. Azpilicueta should have been giving Kepa an earful and telling him, in no uncertain terms, to get off.
If Arrizabalaga doesn’t pay for his insolence with at least a token appearance on the naughty step, Sarri is toast because it sends out a signal that his instructions can be disobeyed with impunity.
John Cross – No
I actually think they’ve probably done the right thing in terms of trying to “style it out.” Kepa deserves the criticism, in my view. Not Sarri.
It was interesting that, at Wembley on Sunday night, Chelsea quickly moved into action to play down the row, to get Kepa to put out a public statement and make it perfectly clear that they had Sarri’s back on this one because it was a better performance, they were unlucky to lose and you could see both the fans and the players responded and did themselves proud.
I think we all know that Sarri is on a sticky wicket. But if a manager has the respect of the players – like a Ferguson or indeed Mourinho at his peak – then the player would never dare question the manager’s authority.
And that’s the underlying problem here: Kepa has taken on the manager as he sees him as weak.
Long term, it’s not great for Sarri. But for now, they’ve done the right thing. That’s why I think Sarri should ride out the storm, pick Kepa on Wednesday and move on to try and finish the season in a way which keeps him in a job (until May).
Adrian Kajumba – Yes
Yes he should be.
I appreciate and understand what Chelsea, Kepa and Maurizio Sarri are trying to do by playing the incident down as a misunderstanding and refusing to fuel the fire.
But the Spaniard’s refusal to go off when beckoned just undermined Sarri further, giving him another headache he can do without.
The only way Kepa could have salvaged the situation was by winning the shootout for Chelsea and he failed to.
It won’t be easy to drop a £71m goalkeeper in this day and age where players are commodities as much as anything else. Chelsea’s hierarchy will no doubt have something to say about the situation and implications of dropping Kepa who cost a world record transfer fee.
But Sarri was already losing his grip on the dressing room before this extraordinary incident.
And his hopes of retaining enough control to steer Chelsea towards their targets this season and beyond could hinge on how he handles this situation and sending out an emphatic message that he is boss.
Matt Lawless – No
Another game, another manager… yes. But whether you feel sorry for the man or not, Sunday’s shambles showed Maurizio Sarri has completely lost it at Chelsea.
Dropping the goalkeeper wouldn’t make one jot of difference now in terms of showing who’s boss because it looks clear as daylight that the Italian won’t be around too much longer.
More so, Chelsea have to beat Tottenham to keep their top four hopes alive.
And, like it or not, they need Kepa Arrizabalaga to have their best chance of doing so.
David McDonnell – Yes
Dropping Kepa, after his mutinous act against Maurizio Sarri, is the only course of action the Chelsea boss can take if he wants to retain any semblance of credibility after what happened at Wembley, although it may already be too late for that after the goalkeeper’s brazen act of rebellion in front of millions watching around the world.
Chelsea, Sarri and Kepa have embarked on a damage limitation exercise, explaining the extraordinary episode as a “misunderstanding”, but no-one who saw what happened will be fooled by such a feeble cover-up.
Dropping Kepa and possibly suspending him, as Manchester City did in 2011 when Carlos Tevez refused to come on against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, is the only way for Chelsea and Sarri to emerge from the sorry episode with any sense of authority and control, to send out a message that such appalling conduct, undermining the manager with such disdain, will not be tolerated.
Neil Moxley – No
No, you can’t drop Kepa now. Absolutely not.
A ridiculous situation would be reduced to the level of a farce if, after all, Maurizio Sarri dropped him.
Why? How would Sarri square that position with his public utterances after the Carabao Cup final that it was all ‘a misunderstanding’?
If it was just that – and no-one in the right mind thinks it was anything other than Kepa refusing to leave the field and expressly disobeying his manager – then the manager cannot punish the player after glossing over the incident.
Leaving Kepa out re-ignites the whole issue. It says that the keeper did point-blank refuse to leave the pitch and he’s being punished for it.
He has to play in the next match. Otherwise, this situation will be exposed for the utter shambles it actually was.
James Nursey – Yes… but it won’t happen
Yes he should, but i can’t see that happening because that would completely undermine both the keeper and manager’s dubious explanations for the extraordinary spat.
The pair are both claiming it was a misunderstanding about the player’s fitness and ability to play on.
Whereas it seems fairly clear to me that the injury was largely irrelevant and Sarri wanted an experienced Cup-winning penalty expert on for the imminent penalty shoot-out as Willy Caballero, 37, has delivered in that precise situation previously – in 2016 with Man City when they beat Liverpool on spot kicks.
Steve Bates – Yes
Yes and I would go further and fine him the maximum amount possible under Premier League and PFA rules.
His behaviour was disrespectful to Maurizio Sarri and his teammates – especially goalkeeper Willy Caballero who was waiting to come on.
It seems Kepa had cramp, but if he didn’t and it was just gamesmanship to run down the clock why wasn’t that information passed to Sarri?
The Chelsea youngster has claimed he didn’t intend to go against Sarri’s orders but it’s a weak excuse. He was defiant and insubordinate and has no respect for his club.
What baffles me is why no-one took charge on the pitch. Why didn’t captain David Luiz or other senior players lay down the law and get him off? And where were Massimo Nenci and Henrique Hilario the Chelsea goalkeeping coaches.
The whole farcical episode underlines deep-rooted problems at Stamford Bridge. When a manager has no authority there’s anarchy and that’s how it looked at Wembley.
Back in the day imagine Peter Schmeichel defying Sir Alex Ferguson like that? No, me neither.
If Chelsea take no action they will shame football.
Tom Hopkinson – Yes
Dropped? He should be sacked for what he did at Wembley yesterday.
He humiliated his manager and made his club a laughing stock at a time when they really didn’t need it. You only had to look at Gianfranco Zola’s face to realise the gravity of what Arrizabalaga had done.
Zola, a model pro in his playing and one of the friendliest faces in the game, was gobsmacked.
If Chelsea don’t act it’ll give their players a free pass to walk all over their manager – whoever it is – for years to come.
Disgraceful, petulant behaviour.
Sam Elliott – No
Absolutely not. Not if they want to continue their incredible attempt to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
Even the most fiercely loyal Chelsea fans are having serious trouble swallowing the post-match rubbish peddled by manager and player following the Wembley defeat. A misunderstanding this was not. A poison dressing room and a club totally exposed on the biggest stage of all much nearer the mark.
But if communication breakdown is the party line, then they’ve all got to stick with it or face even further embarrassment.
If Sarri and Kepa continue to think we will somehow unsee the manager’s outrage at his goalkeeper’s refusal to come off, then the very least they can do is keep up the pretence and pretend everything is perfectly fine. That or come clean.
Martyn Thomas – No
The easiest, and for many the right, thing for Sarri to do would be to drop his keeper in an attempt to claw back some authority.
But no matter how public his humiliation on Sunday this is a matter that should be dealt with behind closed doors in Cobham.
Chelsea face Spurs on Wednesday in a game they really need to win to keep pace with the other top-four contenders. To do that they need their best players available, and Kepa is undoubtedly their best option between the sticks (what frame of mind will Willy Caballero be in anyway after Wembley?).
Dropping Kepa would do nothing to diffuse the situation, save Sarri’s face or instil any kind of authority in a playing group who so obviously appear to have lost respect for their boss.
Winning matches is all that can save Chelsea and their Italian coach now – and they need Kepa to do that.