Maurizio Sarri thinks the Kepa Arrizabalaga substitution incident during the League Cup final has proved as a massive boon for Chelsea.
The Blues had arrived in the final against Manchester City on the back of an alarming dip in form, including a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of the same opponents in the league a fortnight earlier, yet they came up with a much-improved display especially on the defensive side before falling to defeat in the penalty shootout.
The Kepa debacle became the talking point after the match yet Sarri thinks the whole incident has only given Chelsea a positive boost. After the league cup final, the west Londoners managed to string three consecutive wins, including a crunch league victory over top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur and the Italian insists the Kepa fallout only managed to instill more belief in themselves.
“For me, it was really important, the performance in the final against Manchester City, because two weeks before that we lost in Manchester,” said the ex-Napoli manager. “But in two weeks the players were able to play at the same level as them, so it was really very important for our confidence I think.
“I think at the end, the Kepa situation was a good thing for our group. In the last five matches, we won four and drew against Manchester City. In five matches we conceded only one goal, so now we are improving in consistency and defensive solidity.
“But we have to be careful because in the past we had a long period of results and then, suddenly, two weeks of disaster.”
As Chelsea play Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, their top-four rivals Arsenal and Manchester United clash a few hours later as well and the weekend presents an opportunity for Sarri’s side to overtake one of the two in the race for Champions League football next season, while also taking into account their game in hand against Brighton which would be played at a later date.
“I think that we have two big opportunities – this match and then when we will play the match against Brighton,” added Sarri. “But I think we will be fighting for the top four until the last minute of the last match. Every match will be important in our future.”