Former Chelsea goalkeeping coach Massimo Nenci has detailed how Kepa Arrizabalaga was left crying and begging for forgiveness in the changing room after his meltdown in the 2019 Carabao Cup final. Maurizio Sarri was left having his authority questioned four years ago in his bid to win his first trophy as Chelsea boss.
Chelsea had just signed Kepa from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 in a record deal worth £71million with the Spaniard coming in as the club’s new No 1. After an impressive start, Kepa soon came under scrutiny for a number of errors and was under the spotlight heading into the Carabao Cup final after letting in six goals against City the week prior.
Sarri stuck with Kepa in goal for the final but, with penalties looming, the Chelsea boss made the decision to bring on Willy Caballero for Kepa with the latter seemingly struggling with cramp in the closing stages of extra time. But Kepa incredibly refused to come off the pitch with Sarri eventually backing down in a rage.
Chelsea ended up losing the penalty shoot-out to add further insult to injury with Kepa. Nenci, who has been a part of Sarri’s backroom staff at several clubs including Chelsea, was in the middle of it all on that fateful day.
And he’s revealed what the dressing room mood was like after they lost the final with Kepa apologising repeatedly to his team-mates. “All the team was angry in the dressing room,” Nenci told the Daily Mail.
“But first of all, I want to tell you that Kepa is a very, very good guy. And when he recognised his mistake he cried, he cried. He is a very good guy.
“He was saying, ‘I’m sorry mister, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand’.” Nenci also explained why Sarri was thinking of taking Kepa off for Caballero, admitting it was purely for tactical reasons and there appeared to be some miscommunication with the Spaniard.
“The day before, Kepa had a little bit of an injury but it wasn’t that important. Then the day after he played the match,” Nenci added. “At the end of the 90 minutes he was receiving some treatment for the injury, and Antonio Rudiger said to him, ‘wait wait wait, we are in a difficult moment. We need you to stay on.’
“Kepa stayed there with the doctor, who said that his situation was good. But in extra-time Maurizio thought we should substitute Kepa with Caballero, because Caballero is a big penalty saver, and against City [his former club] he would have been perfect for us.
“But Kepa didn’t understand that the substitution was for tactical reasons, not because of the injury. Willy is a big, big penalty saver.”
Kepa has struggled to regain his reputation since that final as Frank Lampard didn’t appear to trust him before Edouard Mendy was brought in as the club’s new first-choice. The 28-year-old has now regained his spot in the Chelsea side under Graham Potter, although that is largely due to Edouard Mendy’s long-term injury.
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