Thomas Tuchel hails ‘unique’ N’Golo Kante after Chelsea win
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Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea look like one of the strongest squads in the Premier League, with excellent depth in every position. However, it is the strength of his two options in goal which could cause him a headache going forward.
The German manager watched his side progress into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, beating Aston Villa on penalties 4-3.
It was the heroics of Kepa Arrizabalaga that got the Blues over the line, saving Marvellous Nakamba’s penalty to give the Blues the advantage in the shoot-out following a 1-1 draw after 90minutes.
Timo Werner had opened the scoring in simple fashion in the 54th minute, heading home close range, but the rotated Villa side equalised 10 minutes later through Cameron Archer.
The 20-year-old diverted a cross from Matty Cash into the top corner to send the away end into ruptures.
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After the fine performance of Kepa, Tuchel revealed that he sees the Spaniard as his no.1 goalkeeper now, despite Edouard Mendy starting the first three games of the season.
He said in his post-match interview: “Kepa is the man again. He’s very strong with penalties. It helps if you have had good experiences, even in penalty shoot-outs, so we focused on that.
“It was a good game, full of energy, good chances, two teams who tried everything to win. It was a nice game to watch. This is also part of what we do: to have entertainment.
“I’m happy because we won and we have some competitive minutes in our players’ legs.”
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With Edouard Mendy currently recovering from a short-term injury, Kepa is Tuchel’s only option between the sticks – but when the Senegalese shot-stopper returns he will have a problem on his hands.
The former PSG manager is facing the exact same issue that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing at Manchester United, and has been since the start of last season.
Solskjaer has experienced keeper David De Gea and the young pretender Dean Henderson battling it out to be the no.1 at Old Trafford, and both have qualities that would make them first-choice on the team sheet elsewhere.
Kepa and Mendy are similar, and if they both remain at Stamford Bridge then they will be battling it out for many seasons to come as both players’ contracts do not expire until 2025.
Since arriving in London from Rennes, Mendy has kept 19 clean sheets in 35 Premier League appearances.
He was signed whilst Frank Lampard was in the dugout at Chelsea as a replacement for Kepa, who looked destined for the exit after making several key mistakes and falling out with the management.
But under Tuchel the 26-year-old has been thrown a lifeline and appears to have grasped the opportunity with both hands.
It remains to be soon who will now be Chelsea’s first-choice option when both goalkeepers are fit, and how the situation itself pans out as both deserve to be playing regularly. Could regular rotation be the answer? That appears to be how Solskjaer is solving the issue he has on his plate.
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