Football News

“We were speechless” – Zola recalls Arrizabalaga’s substitution snub in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final defeat

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:32, 15 August 2019

Former Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola has revealed the Blues bench was “speechless” after Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted in the 2019 Carabao Cup final.

Arrizabalaga caused controversy in February when he appeared to go against the wishes of manager Maurizio Sarri in the dying moments at Wembley by staying on the pitch rather than come off for Willy Caballero.

Kepa’s sub snub: Five things to know…

  • Kepa Arrizabalaga started the 2019 Carabao Cup final in goal.
  • With neither side able to score, the game was approaching a penalty shootout.
  • Arrizabalaga appeared to go down injured, prompting a substitution.
  • But the Spaniard refused to come off for Willy Caballero, frustrating the Chelsea bench.
  • Arrizabalaga saved one penalty in the shootout but couldn’t prevent Chelsea’s defeat.

The incident initially came about when Arrizabalaga went down injured and looked to be unable to continue, prompting Sarri to turn to Caballero.

Although the Spaniard eventually got up and seemed fit to continue, Sarri appeared intent on still bringing Caballero on, given the veteran goalkeeper’s Manchester City history and skill in penalty shootouts.

After much drama, Arrizabalaga stayed on and saved one penalty in the shootout but it was not enough to prevent a defeat.

The goalkeeper was dropped for Chelsea’s next game against Tottenham Hotspur but returned to the No 1 spot shortly after.

And now Zola has revealed how those on the touchline felt about Arrizabalaga’s refusal.

“In the beginning he misunderstood,” Zola told beIN Sports . “He was pretending he was injured because he wanted to waste time.

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“There was nothing really wrong but we then made some considerations. We knew we had Willy Caballero on the bench, who knew all of the Manchester City players and so it was an opportunity for us.

“We were going to make the change. It wasn’t pre-arranged but we saw the day before he was injured, so we thought it was the injury coming back and we saw an opportunity because Caballero knows the Manchester City players so he can also be a good thing; simple as that.

“It was obviously not an easy situation to deal with. We could not believe it, we were speechless, we kept telling him to come off but he didn’t come.”

Before the season was up, Arrizabalaga redeemed himself in penalty shootouts, saving two in a win over Eintracht Frankfurt en route to the Europa League final.

However, the Spaniard could not replicate his heroics in the Uefa Super Cup on Wednesday, failing to save any of Liverpool’s five, despite getting a good hand on Divock Origi and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s efforts, as the Reds won 5-4 in the shootout to clinch a second piece of silverware in three months.