Kepa controversy- crazy decision or the right call?

Phil Etchells and Stanley Gilyead debate the much-discussed Kepa controversy.

Philip Etchells
11th March 2019
Image- Youtube

Kepa Arrizabalaga may well be one of the most hated men in football right now. During the League Cup final, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri attempted to substitute Kepa for Willy Caballero, with a penalty shootout looming. Caballero, who played for City for 3 years, has a strong penalty saving pedigree, and may have had some awareness as to where his former teammates preferred to strike the ball. However, Kepa refused to come off, disregarding Sarri's order and sending the Italian into an explosive rage. Chelsea consequently lost the penalty shootout, and although many cited Kepa's ill-discipline as a crucial factor in this defeat, our writers debate whether Kepa was right or wrong to disobey Sarri and remain on the pitch. 

Wrong- Stanley Gilyead

Kepa’s behaviour in refusing to be substituted last week was nothing short of disgraceful. Players are often visibly angry when substituted but the manager’s word is final and however much a player disagrees with it, they must obey.

The incident has been blamed on miscommunication, something many dismiss as an excuse, but even if true Kepa’s reaction was disrespectful, childish and entirely unacceptable. The bizarre incident overshadowed a fine performance by Chelsea and the day will now be remembered for a spoilt millionaire having a tantrum, ruining the occasion for the fans.

If Caballero had come on as planned the result of the shoot-out may have been different, he spent 3 years at City and would’ve presumably known many of their players’ preferred penalties. Instead Chelsea lost their last chance of silverware this season.

This shameful display could hardly have come at a worse time for Sarri. Already under pressure following a poor run of form it has led to claims that he’s lost control of the players.

It’s the latest in a long line of acts of player power at Chelsea, with players having forced managers out in the past. The only way to stop these player revolts is to sack Kepa, showing once and for all who is boss. But having cost Chelsea over £70 million just last summer this is unlikely to happen. The economic value of top players mean they will continue to rule to roost at Chelsea, with the ensuing instability a fact of life at the club.

Kepa was right- Phil Etchells

Words can’t describe the madness that happened in last Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Deep into extra time, Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Kepa, went down injured. The ensuing chaos has had many people questioning whether the player was right to stay on the pitch. However, Law 3 of the International Football Association Board’s rules (IFAB) states that “If a player who is to be replaced refuses to leave, play continues”.

Kepa stayed on and his side eventually lost on penalties. Manager Sarri has since come out and said “I was wrong” and “it was a misunderstanding”. There’s a chance Kepa was perhaps ‘milking’ his calf injury to time waste. You also have to question what the other senior players in the team were playing at. Captain Azpilicueta didn’t back his manager or convince his team mate to walk off. Only Rüdiger acted, although he was trying to calm Sarri down!

Ex-Man City goalie Willy Caballero, no-one’s first choice replacement, was primed to come on but it has since come out that Kepa argued he was the better keeper anyway in a rumoured post-match bust up. Whether it was dissent or a ‘misunderstanding’, Kepa was well within his rights to remain on the pitch according to the IFAB, and he needs to stay on the pitch if he hopes to justify his €80 million price tag anytime soon.

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