Kepa Arrizabalaga returned to Chelsea’s starting line-up against Fulham on Sunday afternoon and showed exactly why he’s still Maurizio Sarri’s first-choice goalkeeper.
The 24-year-old pulled off several top saves at Craven Cottage, helping his team secure a 2-1 win and all three points in the process.
It was exactly one week since Kepa infuriated Sarri by refusing to be substituted against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.
The Spanish shot-stopper, who was unable to inspire Chelsea to glory in the penalty shoot-out at Wembley, was dropped for last week’s Premier League clash against Tottenham.
Sarri said the incident was a misunderstanding but still wanted to send a clear message to the rest of his squad. Kepa was also fined one weeks’ wages - £190,000 - which he accepted.
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Remarkably, the FA’s rules state that players are not obliged to leave the pitch, even if their numbers are displayed on the electronic board.
Under ‘Substitution Procedure’ of Law 3: The Players, on the FA's website, it clearly states in the rules: “If a player who is to be replaced refuses to leave, play continues.”
However, Jose Mourinho has now called for a rule change to avoid a repeat of the scenes witnessed during extra-time in the Carabao Cup final.
“If a player refuses to come off, it’s not a yellow card. The law states that if a player refuses to come off, the referee carries on with the game,” Mourinho pointed out on beIN Sports.
“In the future this can leave managers in a difficult situation where they tell a player to come off and the player refuses.
“I’m not speaking about Kepa because I don’t think that this is what happened. But I think in the future it could happen and the rule should be the same as if the player has delayed the change - give him a yellow card.
“And then if the second time the manager puts up the [electronic board] with your number and you still refuse to come, you get a second yellow card and you are out.
“The manager needs protection and the law is, in my opinion, a contradiction.”
Watch Mourinho have his say here…
Mourinho’s solution makes a lot of sense. Players cannot have the option to stay on the pitch in that situation. It’s an absurd rule.
Under Mourinho’s rules, substituted players would have two chances to leave the field of play before they are sent off.
Mourinho fully believes, though, that the Kepa incident was a genuine misunderstanding based on positive information he has heard about the goalkeeper from people at Stamford Bridge.
“I have a few friends at the club, and everybody speaks to me amazingly well about Kepa,” he added.
“They say he’s a great kid, they say he’s not capable of this kind of confrontational attitude.
“And when the inside information is positive like that, I believe this kind of information.”