'Not a chance': Crouch says he wouldn't have started one Chelsea player in FA Cup final
Peter Crouch confessed in his recent Daily Mail column that he would have picked Edouard Mendy over Kepa Arrizabalaga for the FA Cup final.
Kepa was selected by Thomas Tuchel to face Leicester City in Saturday’s show piece event.
The Spaniard had played all the previous rounds leading up to the Wembley showdown and was entrusted again with the goalkeeping responsibilities by his boss.
He didn’t have much to do all match and could do very little about Youri Tielemans’ terrific match-winning strike.
However, Crouch was strong in the opinion that Mendy should have got the nod over Kepa for this one-off game.
“It used to be the case that teams played their best line-up regardless, but I wouldn’t be holding Kepa Arrizabalaga responsible for Chelsea’s defeat,” said the former Liverpool striker.
“He was beaten by an outstanding strike from Youri Tielemans that I doubt Edouard Mendy would have saved. Leicester didn’t win the FA Cup because Thomas Tuchel picked his No 2.
“Would I have done it if I was manager? Not a chance. I couldn’t care less how unpopular it would have made me, I would have gone with my strongest available team and then you cannot have any room for doubt.
“But I would also say this as a former player: it would have been unbelievably harsh to drop Kepa after he had played all the rounds before the final.”
That Leicester tie was probably the last time Kepa will play for Chelsea this campaign.
Tuchel’s team have three massive matches before the end of May, which starts with another fight versus the Foxes tomorrow night.
Aston Villa then awaits on the final day, which is followed by the Champions League clash with Manchester City.
Mendy will most certainly return for all of these games, such is the magnitude of what’s at stake.
A top four finish remains up for grabs. Defeat Leicester and the visit to Villa Park should be a little more relaxed.
Fail to overcome the Foxes and that contest with Dean Smith’s side is even more seismic.
That is why Tuchel cannot take any risks with his squad selection, which starts by reimplementing Mendy in between the sticks.
I totally see Crouch’s point about wanting your best players for the biggest occasions.
But it would have been ruthless had Kepa not played against Leicester.
He’s done very little wrong when playing in the cup, nor so when he’s featured in the league under Tuchel.
Admittedly, he hasn’t been troubled often because of Chelsea’s strong defensive organisation, but the ‘keeper had given his manager no reason to drop him.