Gary Neville believed Thomas Tuchel included Kepa Arrizabalaga in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Newcastle United because of the board’s demands, speaking on Sky Sports Monday Night Football.
The shaky Spaniard was handed his first Premier League start since he conceded three against Southampton in the middle of October.
Tuchel took a risk by playing the 26-year-old at Stamford Bridge last night but fortunately it paid of for the player and manager.
Chelsea won pretty convincingly in the capital with Kepa largely untroubled by Newcastle.
He made one important stop to deny Joe Willock in the second half to ensure his goal stayed untarnished.
Eyebrows were seriously raised when the team sheet was released with Kepa in place of the Blues no.1 Edouard Mendy.
Neville suggested several reasons behind the surprise inclusion, one being purely financially driven.
“Managers when they come in, especially top managers, think they can improve players,” said the former Manchester United full back.
“Maybe he (Tuchel) thinks he can get a tune out of Kepa. I have to say, he looked well short of a what top goal keeper would be last time we saw him and I thought he’d been replaced and gone for ever.
“I think it’s a number of things. One: the club will want him to get the best out of these players we paid a fortune for, that might’ve been the brief on the way in.
“Secondly: he’s given everybody a chance.
“The third bit: the arrogance of a top manager thinking they can improve everybody by the fact that they are working with them now.”
Chelsea signed Kepa in 2018 for a startling £72m (BBC Sport) from Athletic Bilbao, making him the most expensive transfer in Chelsea history. He also became the club’s fourth highest earner on a reported £150,000 per-week (Sportrac).
Huge expectations came with the massive price tag. He performed well during his maiden season under Maurizio Sarri but has been in steady decline ever since.
The Chelsea board demand results from any of their expensive acquisition, as to avoid feeling like they’ve made a wasted investment.
Kepa is a prime example of one who hasn’t yet repaid his fee. Neither have Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, two other signings Tuchel was brought into to seemingly get the best out of.
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I think Neville hit the nail on the head with that one.
Tuchel even admitted after the match Mendy was still the first choice, so it was clearly just a way to keep the hierarchy happy.