David Luiz has said that Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted during the Carabao League Cup final against Manchester City does not show that Maurizio Sarri has lost the respect of his Chelsea players.
Sarri’s position is precarious after a run of poor results but his team put in a valiant performance in Sunday’s match against City, who had beaten the Blues 6-0 just two weeks earlier.
City retained the trophy with a 4-3 penalty shootout win at Wembley, but the match was overshadowed by a bizarre incident when Kepa declined to go off, sparking an angry response from the manager.
The Italian coach and Kepa later said the incident was the result of a misunderstanding and Luiz was adamant the players are on Sarri’s side.
“The coach has the power over the group. He has our respect,” Luiz said. “For me, there is not a problem here for that. We all believe in his philosophy, we all believe in the way he wants us to play.
“That’s why we did a great game against the best team in Europe at the moment. Apart from that, it was a misunderstanding and we all want to do what is best for Chelsea.”
Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack believes the Chelsea hierarchy needs to take a strong stance on the matter, to support Sarri.
“It was not a good picture for Chelsea,” Ballack told talkSPORT radio. “The board has to say something because it is really, really important that the players respect the coach and respect each other. Something shouldn’t happen like that.”
Kepa saved Leroy Sane’s penalty in the shootout, but could have done better with Sergio Aguero’s effort that slipped under his body as City retained the trophy after a goalless draw.
“It is never easy for us to listen from afar,” Luiz added about the Kepa incident. “I didn’t know if the coach wanted to make the change because it was his decision or because he (Kepa) had already been on the floor twice.
“Kepa was saying ‘no, I’m good, I can stay on the pitch’, but from far you can’t understand.
“I’m sure if Kepa knew the coach wished to change him because it was his decision, he would have come off because he is a great professional, he is a great boy and would respect that.”