What next for Kepa at Chelsea after another Carabao Cup final to forget?



Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2022 by Goal.com

The Spain 'keeper was unable to save any of Liverpool's penalties at Wembley before missing himself, in what may prove one his final acts for the club

What next for Kepa at Chelsea after another Carabao Cup final to forget?

It was pre-planned by Chelsea that Kepa Arrizabalaga would come on for penalties against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

Yet it must have been hard to take that he did not start the match in the first place, with Edouard Mendy coming in for the final, even though Kepa had played in every previous round.

Not only that but Kepa has excelled in the Carabao Cup - winning two penalty shootouts for Chelsea as well as keeping three further clean sheets.

His missed penalty on Sunday, then, was a painful moment, but the decision not to start him also shows that his time at Stamford Bridge may be up.

Manager Thomas Tuchel could rightly argue that Mendy was exceptional over 120 minutes to keep Liverpool out. He can also point to the fact that both his goalkeepers were informed of their roles beforehand, with Kepa selected to face spot-kicks.

Tuchel's decision to switch his goalkeepers was criticised in some quarters but comes off the back of data analysis run through specialists at the club.

Chelsea’s analysts watch every penalty in and after training, and have worked out that Kepa is the best at saving penalties among the west London goalkeeping contingent.

He had proven them right, too, winning the last three penalty shootouts in a row, including in the UEFA Super Cup at the beginning of the season in similar circumstances.

Ultimately, neither Kepa nor Caoimhin Kelleher, who is Liverpool's No.2 goalkeeper but started the cup final ahead of Alisson, could save any of the first 21 penalties at Wembley.

Kepa then blazed his penalty over the bar following his initial omission from the starting line-up.

"It is [harsh] and we feel bad for him, but no blame," Tuchel said when asked by GOAL.

"We decided like we did last time in a penalty shootout because Kepa is training with the players [for penalties] daily and they know how good he is.

"He has simply more time on the training ground to do this than Edou, who plays a lot more. Everyone knows how good he is, how difficult it is to shoot [against him] and this plays a huge part in how we shot today.

"Unfortunately, he couldn't make a save – their penalties were brilliantly taken – and it was a bit harsh on him that he was the guy to miss the only penalty, but there is no blame.

"If you want to blame someone, blame me. I make the decisions and I don’t take them to be the hero.”

Chelsea’s analysts will not have factored in Kepa's own ability from the spo,t and it has led to another painful moment for the goalkeeper, who also made headlines when he refused to be substituted in his last final appearance back in 2019.

Since then, Mendy has arrived from Rennes in a £22 million ($29m) deal and has become arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.

Despite having started the Club World Cup final, there is little prospect that Kepa can turn around the situation and become the Blues No.1 anytime soon.

The club believe there will be a host of clubs interested in signing Kepa this summer, having failed to even loan him out after floating him on the market in previous seasons.

That said, it will be impossible to get back the full £72m ($96m) world-record fee that was paid to bring him in from Athletic Club.

Missing the crucial penalty was a brutal moment for Kepa, who had managed to turn around a highly-publicised dip in form under previous manager Frank Lampard.

Nonetheless, he has now rediscovered his abilities while also adding to his game after a long spell out of the team.

He has done all he can, regaining the respect of his peers and is a much-loved member of the squad behind the scenes.

His time at Chelsea, though, will likely be remembered for two Carabao Cup finals that did not go his way.



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