Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has insisted he has complete faith in goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who he believes can prove himself as a top shot stopper once again.
An abysmal 2019/20 campaign, in which Kepa posted a historically low save percentage, saw then-manager Frank Lampard push for the signing of new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who has impressed since his £22m move from Rennes.
Mendy has been Tuchel’s go-to goalkeeper, but the boss confirmed that Kepa will be given a chance to prove himself with an appearance in Thursday’s FA Cup fifth round tie with Barnsley.
“He will play [against Barnsley],” said Tuchel (via The Telegraph). “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 are a little bit on his shoulders. That was the impression from far away, from outside.
“The good thing for him is that we start new, that this is a new start for him because I don’t have a history with him and I hope there will be no difficulties and I don’t see them coming. Today, I absolutely believe [he can turn things around].”
There is a belief that the Chelsea hierarchy would like Tuchel to give Kepa another chance. Lampard’s reluctance to do so contributed to his dismissal from Stamford Bridge in January, but director Marina Granovskaia has personally involved herself to try and keep Kepa happy.
Granovskaia took time out of her summer break to sit down with Kepa to offer her support and to try and find a way back for the Spaniard, who cost a world record £72m when he arrived from Athletic Club in 2018.
“It applies for Kepa because it applies for every player, no matter whether we bought him for crazy money or he came from the academy, or was a free agent,” Tuchel continued. “It is our job to push the guy to the limit.
“And we are pretty selfish because we want to have them in the best shape on the pitch. Of course, the club want the market value to stay or increase but for me it is pretty selfish, we want the guy in the best shape and we want the best competition in any position.
“From inside, I see a nice guy, a nice personality, an open personality. A hard working guy with, obviously, a lot of quality. He deserves to be here. He’s a sports guy who loves competition, he does everything to impress in training.”