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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea decision for FA Cup semi- final win could be final straw for £71m man

  "It is [harsh], and we feel bad for him, but [there's] no blame," the words of Thomas Tuchel on Kepa Arrizabalaga after h...

 

"It is [harsh], and we feel bad for him, but [there's] no blame," the words of Thomas Tuchel on Kepa Arrizabalaga after he missed the decisive penalty in Chelsea's dramatic shootout defeat to Liverpool in February. The Blues goalkeeper had been brought on for his penalty expertise, but the decision somewhat backfired, and Chelsea lost the Carabao Cup final.

Following Edouard Mendy's arrival in the 2020 summer transfer window , the Senegal international has been Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper ever since. The form of Mendy has made it virtually impossible for Kepa to get a sniff under both Frank Lampard and now Tuchel.

As mentioned above, Kepa was substituted on in extra-time of Chelsea's Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool almost two months ago. The £71million signing has showcased his ability in penalty shootouts in the past, but against the Reds, it was not the Spaniard's day at all.

Liverpool lifted the trophy after winning 11-10 on penalties at Wembley. Kepa didn't get very close to any of the spot-kicks and then missed the decisive one, blazing it over the crossbar in front of the jubilant Reds supporters.

Since the brief outing at Wembley, Kepa has played just once for Chelsea - in the 3-2 FA Cup win over Luton Town on March 2. The win at Kenilworth Road could well be his last appearance in a Chelsea shirt. The Blues have nine matches remaining of the 2021/22 season, with eight of them coming in the Premier League and the other one in the FA Cup final against Liverpool next month.

There was some thinking that the former Athletic Bilbao shot- stopper would start on Sunday against Crystal Palace, considering he's usually Tuchel's go-to 'cup goalkeeper', but Mendy got the nod instead. Between now and the end of the season, Chelsea have some huge matches. The only way Kepa would get another runout for the Blues is if Tuchel's side can cement a top-four spot as early as possible.

Right now, Chelsea look set to finish in the top four, but with one bad result and others going against them, it could all be flipped once again. There's also a chance he could feature against Leeds United on May 11, three days before the FA Cup final, with Tuchel possibly looking to give Mendy a rest on that day.

According to reports last month, Newcastle United are interested in signing Kepa, with Eddie Howe viewing the 27-year-old as an upgrade on both Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow at St. James' Park. The report also claims that Chelsea could be willing to accept a loan offer as long as the deal includes an obligation to buy.

If Kepa does leave, Chelsea still has Marcus Bettinelli to call upon, but it would come as no shock - should the current transfer ban be lifted with new owners coming in - if the Blues went and bought another goalkeeper in the summer window.

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