Thomas Tuchel believes Kepa Arrizabalaga can still rescue his Chelsea career but urged the goalkeeper not to try too hard to impress on his first start for the new Blues boss.
Kepa’s future at Stamford Bridge looked doomed under Tuchel’s predecessor Frank Lampard after falling out of favor as the club brought in Eduoard Mendy from Rennes to become their first-choice goalkeeper.
The Blues signed Kepa from Athletic Bilbao for a world-record fee of £71.6 million in August 2018 but were willing to listen to offers this summer if the majority of that sum could be recouped.
No club was interested at that price and Kepa has played just four times since Mendy’s arrival in September. However, Tuchel’s arrival has given him opportunity for a fresh start, beginning with Thursday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Championship side Barnsley.
“He will play tomorrow, he will start tomorrow,” said Tuchel, who was sacked by Paris Saint-Germain in December before succeeding Lampard last month.
“And from outside, of course we had a view on his situation, and some difficulties on the sporting side.
“Maybe also the circumstances of his transfer maybe a little bit on his shoulders. That was the impression from outside.
“From inside I see a nice guy, I see a nice personality, an open personality, a hard-working guy, with obviously a lot of quality.
“So the good thing for him is that we start new, it’s a new start for him. I don’t have a history with him and I hope there will be no difficulties, because I don’t see them coming.
Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has struggled since moving to Stamford Bridge. Photo by MICHAEL REGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
“He’s a clear guy, an open guy. He does everything to impress in training. I’m happy I feel all three goalkeepers in a good atmosphere, they are competitors to each other, it’s a very special position in football of course, it’s a very decisive position, it has its own rules.
“If you make mistakes everybody sees them and talks about them. So you need a lot of mental strength and quality and I see this in all three goalkeepers. Kepa has a chance tomorrow and I hope he can show what he shows in training.”
Asked whether Kepa can turn things around at Chelsea, Tuchel replied “absolutely, today, absolutely” before adding: “Nobody wants to sit [on the bench], I absolutely understand that. No goalkeeper wants to sit [on the bench] and none of my guys wants to travel tomorrow to sit on the bench.
“They don’t want to sit and I don’t want them to want to sit. I want them to be on the pitch, to play huge roles. At the same time, we give the same amount of support to Edou and hopefully to Willy [Caballero].
“The situation is for Kepa the situation he finds right now. We didn’t make a change in the first game and Ed was strong in the moment. So tomorrow is an opportunity to show and hopefully, it’s very important for me to say this, he doesn’t want to overachieve. I want him to do a normal match tomorrow.
“He does not have to show me or anybody else tomorrow he is ready to be Spain’s No. 1 in the summer. He just has to show his quality. Not more or less. So we have to manage expectations because I don’t expect him to score and keep a clean sheet. I just want him to help us with his quality and he gives a solid performance to help the team.
“He has big goals to achieve and personal ambition. But this is normal, it’s why he’s here.”
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