It’s a strange situation for all involved at Chelsea Football Club regarding what to do with £72m goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
A combination of his high price tag/wages, a pandemic limiting the number of teams able to afford him and those on the board who signed off the deal not wanting to look stupid, meant Thomas Tuchel has had to find a solution to what to do with him.
To his credit, Kepa hasn’t complained, hasn’t kicked up a stink, has remained committed to a club that has put so much into him.
Tuchel has managed him well, giving him a few opportunities here and there to slowly build up his confidence.
It helps that Tuchel’s version of Chelsea are defensively solid and only give up a small number of chances each game.
Under Lampard, Chelsea’s defence held an open door policy for their opponents. It seemed like every shot was going through Kepa and into the goal.
That hasn’t happened under Tuchel.
Kepa’s played in every FA Cup game this season, including the semi-final against Manchester City, conceding just one goal to the mighty Luton Town.
He absolutely has to start the final on Saturday.
His selection against Arsenal last night raised eyebrows. Perhaps Tuchel had picked him tonight because he’d decided to go with Mendy for the final and this game was Kepa’s compensation.
Then there’s the goal, which is in no way whatsoever Kepa’s fault. Jorginho received a poor pass from Kurt Zouma, and doesn’t look.
Kepa is doing what every good goalkeeper should be when playing out from the back, creating passing angles away from his goal.
The fact Jorginho doesn’t look is his fault and his fault alone.
But those still jittery about Kepa being between the sticks will use those concerns as a justification to pin some of the blame on him here.
Tuchel has slowly built Kepa back up again and in turn has built up the trust of the defence in him as well.
He’s made some good saves in his appearances, looked good with the ball at his feet and generally done well.
Not playing him in the final would kill all that work.
Some people won’t really care, it’s about Chelsea winning, it’s not about Kepa.
But he got us here and he absolutely can play a part in us winning the cup.
Tuchel not picking him would undo all his good work with him so far, it would leave him with a member of the squad who would no longer trust him, no longer be an active member of the squad.
Bad apples and all that.
It would also leave Chelsea without a saleable asset. If it’s true Chelsea are looking at another goalkeeper, then they’ll need to offload Kepa.
If he isn’t right mentally due to being left out, who’s realistically going to take him?
If he’s offered to clubs as a FA Cup winner with his confidence back, I’m sure he’ll be snapped up.
After the game Tuchel said he was picked to “get ready” for the final, which is the right call.
Tuchel hasn’t got much wrong so far and I trust him to make the right call here.
Kepa must start.