The last two games have been very important for Kepa Arrizbalaga. Against Tottenham Hotspur, he kept a clean sheet and made important saves in a 3-0 win. And in the Carabao Cup victory over Aston Villa in midweek, he was Chelsea’s hero in the penalty shootout.
Yet today the Spaniard will be back on the substitutes’ bench for the visit of Manchester City. That is because Edouard Mendy has returned from injury and is ready to feature. Thomas Tuchel has already confirmed the Senegal international will start the contest.
Some may view that as harsh. Kepa has, after all, stepped up for Chelsea in the last week. There is little more the world’s most expensive goalkeeper could have done to reclaim his place in the Blues starting XI that he lost a year ago when Mendy was signed from Rennes.
But such a dramatic change to the goalkeeping hierarchy is not on the cards. It’s why Tuchel didn’t feel it necessary to speak to Kepa about the decision to introduce Mendy at the first opportunity.
“No, why should I? The situation is so clear, I told you before for the goalkeepers it’s clear,” the Chelsea head coach said yesterday at his pre-match press conference. “Maybe it sounds tough but it’s not tough at all.
“We are here to push Kepa to the absolute limit and this is what we are here for. Kepa is a fantastic goalkeeper and we are so happy to have him. He deserves all the praise but at the same time, that’s what we demand from him.
“Mendy is the number one at the moment and the number one is ready to play tomorrow, not on 99% ready but 100% ready. So he plays, the race keeps going, and it is not hard at all, there are no hard feelings.
“I could not have been happier for Kepa, because he deserves so much and deserves to show everybody what he shows us here every single day, that he’s a top guy, a top sportsman, and a fantastic goalkeeper.
“But welcome to Chelsea, we are in a top competition on any level, and we do this without any hard words or hard feelings. The two behave like friends within their competition.”
Kepa has played ten games since the appointment of Tuchel at the end of January and in those has kept six clean sheets. His confidence which was obliterated under Frank Lampard has slowly been regained.
Yet is there a risk that Kepa could feel hard done by being dropped for one of the biggest games of the campaign? Is Tuchel concerned that it could lead to hard feelings between Mendy and the Spaniard?
“The scenarios you’re speaking about are if we don’t talk before, but we talked before,” the German responded when asked that question ahead of the visit of Pep Guardiola’s side.
“The situation is clear and he (Kepa) can only play so good if he feels good, otherwise it’s not possible to perform like this.
“They push each other, they are happy for each other to perform like this. There are no hard feelings, neither will come to my office and say, ‘this cannot happen’. It doesn’t happen like that because the situation is so clear, and it’s super calm.
“It might be something very, very boring for you, but that’s the way it is.”
Source by Football London