Chelsea coach Arno Michels has suggested that Kepa Arrizabalaga “has the ability to read the mind” of his opponents when he is attempting to save penalties.
The Blues paid around £71m to sign the Spaniard from Atletico Bilbao in 2018. He has been criticised over the past few years and Edouard Mendy has replaced him as Chelsea’s number one.
Mendy is currently away at the African Cup of Nations so Arrizabalaga has started in recent weeks.
The 27-year-old has performed well in Mendy’s absence. He saved a penalty as Chelsea beat Plymouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Speaking after the game, Michels praised Arrizabalaga’s character as he is a “reliable” goalkeeper:
“It’s not only about the penalty save but it’s also about the performance, it was a very good performance. In the last matches, I’ve felt him very reliable in his game,” Michels said (via The Daily Mail).
“His strength is to save penalties, he’s shown it a few times now: in the Carabao Cup twice, against Villarreal, and even in training, it’s hard to beat him.
“In penalty shoot-outs, he has the ability to read the mind of what the player is going to do.
“We are very happy with Kepa and he deserves this trust because he is a fantastic guy.
“To work with him for one year, it is hard for him because Edou (Mendy) is playing very good, but Kepa is constantly doing very good work in training, reliable work.
“He is friendly and an amazing guy. So I am very happy for him he could save us from a penalty shoot-out.”
Elsewhere, Chelsea remain unsure whether Thomas Tuchel will be able to travel to Abu Dhabi for any part of the Blues’ Club World Cup campaign after testing positive for Covid-19.
“First of all we do not exactly know right now what the situation is with Thomas, when he will be back,” said Michels.
“He has to follow the Government rules, and is in self-isolation. So we are looking forward for the next days. We were in ongoing communication with Thomas during the match.
“He knows about the game of course, and we stayed in touch with him the whole game. Everything was clear what we wanted to do. We stayed in touch the whole time and all was good.”
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