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.

Chelsea v Newcastle United - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 15: Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea punches the ball clear under pressure from Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on February 15, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

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 v Newcastle United - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 15: Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea shakes hands with Ngolo Kante and Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea following the Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on February 15, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

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.   

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