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Confident Kepa Arrizabalaga loves saving penalties

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Chelsea v Southampton - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Chelsea backup goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has made just four appearances this season, but remarkably, three of those appearances have ended in a penalty shootout. Even more remarkably, Chelsea have won all three, with Kepa making at least one save in all three.

In fact, he’s now made at least one save in six of the seven shootouts he’s been involved in, with Chelsea wining five in the process — the one we didn’t win where he made a save was the League Cup final against Manchester City in 2019.

Incidentally, Kepa’s last four appearances in the League Cup have all involved a penalty shootout (Spurs, Manchester City, both in 2018-19; Aston Villa and Southampton this season, with Willy Caballero and Edouard Mendy splitting duties in last season’s two-match run).

How does he do it? Ben Chilwell thinks he may be a mind-reader.

More likely, it’s just preparation and homework and continuing the legacy established by Petr Cech and Willy Caballero. There’s certainly an air of confidence and assuredness about Kepa when it comes to penalties, making what may be a bit of luck seem like an inevitability.

“I’ve always said I try to help the team in the best way but I do feel really good at penalties. I feel confident. It’s a bit of luck, a bit of work, a bit of everything but I feel really good. I’m really happy to help the team, to be in the next round and win on penalties for the third time this season. Hopefully we can win the next game in 90 minutes but if we go to penalties I’m ready to go again.”

[...]

“Of course I want to play more regularly. My last game was also a cup game, more or less a month ago, so it’s not easy to sometimes step in and feel the same as you would if you play every week. But I try to be ready.”

Chelsea v Southampton - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

There’s also a bit of survival instinct at play here for Kepa, since making these saves practically ensures future playing time for himself, and like any good professional, he wants to play every game — and win every trophy.

“First of all, I want to keep playing and if we lose in the cup and we’re out, I have one game less, no? So I start with this mindset. But I really want to enjoy being on the pitch with that pressure. I want to enjoy it because when you’re on the bench it’s not the same, of course.”

“[We] have the squad with big quality to play every game with a strong team [and] we’re ready to arrive to a final but let’s go step by step. But of course that’s in our mind.”

What is also in our mind is that first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, the best in the world, will be away with Senegal for a month starting in early January at the Africa Cup of Nations, which means that Kepa will have to step up and lead our efforts not just in the League Cup, but in all the other competitions as well.

“We have a lot of games until we start thinking about [being without Mendy]. Let’s go step by step and we’ll see what happens. If he goes to the African Cup, all the best and I’ll be ready. But it’s still a long way to arrive at that point.

[...]

“I feel the confidence of the manager – this is really important. I’ve felt his support from the beginning and I think when I step in I’m ready to help the team and I’m happy to do that.”

-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: Evening Standard

Hopefully the confidence gained in these games, as well as his improved play behind Thomas Tuchel’s defense, will set him and the team up for great success.

Chelsea v Southampton - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images