Tuchel believes Kepa Arrizabalaga can turn his fortunes around at Chelsea
Under-performing goalkeeper among players given surprise starts against Barnsley
Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in the FA Cup fifth-round clash against Barnsley. Photograph: Ian Kington/Ikimages/AFP via Getty Images
The Chelsea manager will give an opportunity to players who have not had many minutes in his four Premier League matches, including the central midfielders N’Golo Kanté and Billy Gilmour and the winger Hakim Ziyech. He reported that the striker Timo Werner was unavailable because of a dead leg.
It was Arrizabalaga’s inclusion that generated the most interesting discussion, with Tuchel describing it as a new start. The 26-year-old, who became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 for £71.6 million (€81.7 million), has endured a difficult season, making errors that have led to goals in four of his six club appearances.
Arrizabalaga was dropped after the first two games by Tuchel’s predecessor, Frank Lampard, who turned first to Willy Caballero and then the new signing, Edouard Mendy; the latter is now established as the first-choice. Tuchel’s feeling from the outside was that Arrizabalaga had struggled to cope with the weight of his price-tag but he believes the Spain international has the ability and toughness to turn his fortunes around.
“We had a view on his situation and some difficulties on the sporting side,” Tuchel said. “Maybe, also, the circumstances of his transfer are a little bit on his shoulders. The good thing for him is that this is a new start for him because I don’t have a history with him.
“It is a special position. If you do mistakes, everybody sees it and talks about it so you need a lot of mental strength and quality. I see this in all of the three goalkeepers. I absolutely believe [Arrizabalaga can turn it around].
“This is an opportunity [against Barnsley] and hopefully he does not want to over-achieve. I want him to play a normal match. He does not have to show me or anybody else that he is ready to be Spain’s number one.”
Chelsea have learned that the first-leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday week will now be played in Bucharest rather than the Spanish capital because of coronavirus travel restrictions. Chelsea are set to host the second-leg at Stamford Bridge on March 17th, meaning that they have a slight sporting advantage. Spain has placed restrictions on travellers from the UK where a new variant of the virus is present.
“They [Atletico] don’t have the home advantage so I can absolutely understand their feelings,” Tuchel said. “Do I have anything to do with it? No. Was it our decision? No. So from now on, no more reflection on that. Don’t doubt that they will be ready to fight against us. They will be ready 100 per cent to fight in Bucharest against us.”