Kepa Arrizabalaga has said he will be ready to step up for Chelsea if his fellow goalkeeper Édouard Mendy represents Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Arrizabalaga had an eventful evening during Chelsea’s victory over Southampton in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, recovering from an error to help his team progress on penalties, and the goalkeeper is intent on proving that Thomas Tuchel can rely on him.
Tuchel is likely to lose Mendy for a prolonged period if his No 1 goalkeeper departs on international duty in January.The Spaniard, who has failed to convince since leaving Athletic Bilbao for £71.6m three years ago, insists he will not disappoint if required to step up.
“It’s two months away,” Arrizabalaga said. “Of course we know it can happen and I will be ready. But we have a lot of games until we start thinking about that. 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.”
Arrizabalaga did well on his only league appearance this season, helping Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Tottenham when Mendy was injured. The 27-year-old struggled under Frank Lampard’s management, but he has been happier since Tuchel’s appointment in January. The Spain international has not sulked about losing his place to Mendy and has made sure he is ready when he comes in for cup games.
“Of course I want to play more regularly,” he said. “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, train hard, be involved in the team. Also, 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. I’m happy to do that.
“It’s really important. I want to keep playing and if we lose in the cup and we’re out, I have one game less. I start with this mindset. But I really want to enjoy being on the pitch with that pressure.”
Arrizabalaga was at fault for Southampton’s equaliser but redeemed himself with excellent saves in the second half and has emerged as a shootout expert. After helping Chelsea beat Aston Villa and Villarreal on penalties this season, Arrizabalaga starred again against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side. He saved Theo Walcott’s penalty and after the goalkeeper’s mind games Will Smallbone fired his over.
“I do feel really good at penalties,” Arrizabalaga said. “I feel confident. It’s a bit of luck, a bit of work, a bit of everything.”