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Kepa’s defiance deals fatal blow to Sarri’s credibility

Any vestiges of credibility that Mauricio Sarri had as Chelsea manager appear to have been dealt a fatal blow after the behaviour of his goalkeeper Kepa Arribalaga in the Carabao Cup Final on Sunday.

Chelsea had defied the critics and delighted their own fans by producing a far better performance against Manchester City than had been expected, but, with the match deep into extra time and penalties looming, came the extraordinary incident that may bring an end to Sarri’s reign at Stamford Bridge.

Goalkeeper Kepa had gone down with cramp for a second time and Chelsea were preparing to substitute him for Willy Caballero, who has an excellent record when it comes to saving spot kicks. However, Kepa refused to obey his manager and leave the field, resulting in a three-minute stand-off that sent Sarri into a touchline rant, at one point seemingly on the verge of storming out of the stadium. He later had to be physically restrained from attacking Kepa by defender Antonio Rüdiger when the referee blew for the end of the match shortly afterwards.

Although Sarri later attributed it to a “misunderstanding” few observers are buying that, and such a blatant display of insubordination by a player is clear evidence of the disharmony in the Chelsea dressing room under Sarri.