Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri insists he is fully in control of the dressing room despite his extraordinary touchline row with Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Carabao Cup final.
The Chelsea goalkeeper refused to be substituted in the closing moments of extra time at Wembley on Sunday, prompting a furious reaction from his head coach Sarri.
Kepa, who appeared to be struggling with cramp, went on to save from Leroy Sane in the penalty shoot-out, but Manchester City eventually triumphed 4-3 after 120 goalless minutes of action.
Sarri later stressed the incident was simply a misunderstanding and that he would not be taking any severe action against the player for apparently refusing to obey his instructions.
The 60-year-old then made it clear that Chelsea’s largely impressive performance showed that he has not lost authority over the squad, even if the Kepa incident might suggest otherwise.
“I think that, if you saw the match, you can understand very well that, today, the players played exactly the match we prepared yesterday,” Sarri told a news conference.
“So, I think I am in control, fully in control of the situation.
“Now, I’d like to speak about something else, about our way of football today, because our way of football today was a little bit different from other matches.”
When asked if he felt Kepa showed him a lack of respect, Sarri said: “No, Kepa only said: ‘No, no, I’m very well and able to continue.’ He understood I wanted to change for an injury. He was only telling me his word, saying he was really very well. So, I think that, in 120 minutes, a discussion can happen with the players.
“I think we have to concentrate on football. Of course, I will speak to him. As I said before, he was right for his motivation. But not for the conduct.”
Sarri also denied that the incident affected the Chelsea players ahead of the penalty shoot-out, saying: “No, I don’t think so, because the only nervous person was myself. I saw the players very quiet and calm.
“We had prepared [for a shoot-out], but it’s useless because it’s very easy to kick a penalty in the training ground. Then, after 20 hours, you have to kick a penalty here with 80,000 people, and millions watching on television. So, it’s really different. It’s not a question of technical ability. But more the mind, I think.”
There had been doubts over Sarri’s future as Chelsea boss in the build-up to the game following heavy Premier League defeats to City and Bournemouth and an FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.
The former Napoli boss says it will be up to the club to decide if his team’s efforts in the final will buy him any more time in charge.
“I don’t know; you’ll have to use your phone and ask the club,” he said. “I can say my opinion, but I don’t know. But today I’m really very happy because my feeling is that we are improving. We are improving because we could become a very solid team, I think.
“We conceded nothing to Manchester City, and that’s not really very easy. They’re very dangerous in the attacking phase, and usually score a lot. So, I’m happy with the performance, and I saw the match on the pitch that I prepared yesterday. So, for a coach, it’s a very important thing.”
When asked what owner Roman Abramovich might think, Sarri replied: “I don’t know. If the television worked well, [he saw] a good performance. It depends on the television, I think. I don’t know where the president is, so the signal might be not good.”