Maurizio Sarri insisted that Kepa Arizabalaga will remain Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper despite dropping the Spaniard to the bench for wednesday’s 2-0 win over Totenham at stamford bridge.
Willy Caballero was handed his first Premier League start of the season by Sarri at the expense of Kepa, who was fined one week’s wages by chelsea on Tuesday for refusing to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City.
Chelsea vindicated Sarri’s decision by keeping a clean sheet against Spurs, who failed to even register a shot on target against Caballero. But after the match, the Italian revealed there will be no lasting ramifications for his £71.5 million goalkeeper.
“I think it was the right decision,” said Sarri, who added that Kepa found out the news during Chelsea’s team meeting ahead of the game. “Kepa made a big mistake. He paid with the club. Then he had to pay with the team. But now I think we have to stop. Kepa, from tomorrow, will be with us.
“I don’t know if he will be on the pitch in the next match [against Fulham] or not, but in one of the next two, for sure. We cannot kill him. When you are young, I think you can make mistakes. The most important thing is that you need to understand very well, after every mistake. So now, for me, the issue is closed.”
Asked if Kepa remains his No.1 goalkeeper, Sarri replied: “Of course.”
Chelsea’s victory was a timely boost for Sarri, whose job was potentially on the line after a run of three defeats in four Premier League matches saw them drop to sixth in the table, but after the match, the Italian was more concerned with ensuring that his players maintain the standard they set against Spurs.
“The most important thing is that we need consistency in performances and in results,” he added. “As you know very well, in this championship, it’s so difficult. It’s not easy. In the last month, we played two or three times against Tottenham, once against Man City, once against Man United.
“It’s not easy to have consistency of results, but now we need points. It was really very important tonight because we are fighting for the top four. I don’t know but, maybe, with this result we can involve Tottenham in this battle [for the top four]. The gap is very large, seven points, but maybe. It’s not easy, of course.”
Victory over Tottenham also brought a drastic improvement in the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, where Sarri was roundly jeered and the team booed during last weekend’s limp FA Cup exit at home to Manchester United.
“The result was very important because the fans saw the team able to fight,” Sarri admitted. “For the relationship with the fans, it was really a very important match. I am the coach. I think about my team.
“What is important now is consistency. To fight for 10 matches in a row. Maybe we are not able to win 10 matches in a row, but we’ll be able to fight.”