In his regular column for the official club website, Chelsea technical
director advisor Petr Čech, who recently also took on a bit more of a hands-on role (temporarily) in Thomas Tuchel’s enforced absence, has given a brief explanation for how the decision about the starting goalkeeper for the Club World Cup final last weekend was made.
Even though backup (and usual cup goalkeeper) Kepa Arrizabalaga has performed admirably in first-choice Édouard Mendy’s absence, the coaching staff decided to go with the latter after his return to the team following his own heroics with Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“Edou arrived on the day of the semi-final, and at that time it wouldn’t have been right to put him in. He hadn’t trained with the team. Kepa had been brilliant deputising for him in every game, and everybody has confidence and trust in him.
“But for the final, the decision was for Edou. He was ready and fit to play and he has been the number one goalkeeper this season.”
-Petr Čech; source: Chelsea FC
I suppose it’s not at all uncommon to see the first-choice goalkeeper take over from the backup in the latter stages of any cup competition, especially in one on which we’ve placed as much emphasis as we had in this case — though Kepa was overwhelmingly the preferred choice by the people who voted in our poll.
“We chose to go with Edou because he’s our number one goalkeeper, he came over here, trained and is fit. I think it’s a hard decision to make but he’s our number one, he plays.”
-Petr Čech; source: Channel 4 via Mirror
The decision does underline that despite Kepa’s improvements, the starting job is Mendy’s to lose, and (fortunately) he’s not looking likely to do so anytime soon.
Could that motivate a move away for Kepa this summer? He’s said to be happy with his lot, but rumors of Sarri’s Lazio are starting to make the rounds once again, and interest should only increase given Kepa’s impressive performances this season.