The absence of Edouard Mendy who had to go represent his country Senegal at the African Cup of Nations in January meant backup goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had to fill in between the sticks for Chelsea throughout their number one’s absence.
Kepa did well deputising for Mendy as Chelsea barely missed the Senegalese throughout the period when he was helping the Terranga Lions clinch their maiden AFCON trophy and Kepa’s form lasted all through to the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final where he kept a clean sheet and helped Chelsea reach the final through his impressive saves vs Al Hilal.
Mendy did return in time for the club world cup final after winning the AFCON with Senegal and his return put coach Thomas Tuchel in a dilemma as to which goalkeeper to start in the crucial final game against Palmeiras and the German ultimately picked official number one Edouard Mendy ahead of Kepa despite the Spaniard’s recent form and improvements.
Tuchel in his press conference earlier today provided an in-depth insight on his decision for the first time and according to him it was a hard decision to bench Kepa for the final game against Palmeiras.
Thomas Tuchel: “Kepa’s is so good in training and in the games. He actually could be the no.1. He is not because we have Mendy, Edou is our no.1. But it’s full credit to Kepa. Outstanding character, fantastic team player.”Via @AbsoluteChelsea
Thomas Tuchel: “It was a hard decision as he was a huge part of the semi-final to bring us to the final. We would’ve done the same thing if it was the other way round. He deserves the very best. He’s a big part.”Via @AbsoluteChelsea
Chelsea assistant coach Zsolt Low during their club world cup campaign last week described the competition between Kepa and Mendy as a good situation for the club and of course Chelsea fans are watching with keen interest how the competition for a starting spot between two great goalkeepers at their club unfolds.