'Don't bring him on': Paul Merson really hopes Chelsea don't play 27-year-old in the FA Cup Final tomorrow

Paul Merson has strongly advised Thomas Tuchel to avoid substituting on Kepa Arrizabalaga in the FA Cup final tomorrow.

Writing his Sportskeeda predictions for Saturday’s clash between Chelsea and Liverpool, Merson prayed not to see Kepa’s number appear on the official’s board.

The singular digit on the back of the Spaniard’s shirt has hardly been seen in the past few months.

His last appearance of any kind was the 3-2 FA Cup victory over Luton Town at the very beginning of March.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

In the matches leading up to that win, he had enjoyed a rare run-out between the sticks whilst Edouard Mendy was away on Africa Cup of Nations duty.

After the Club World Cup, Mendy retained the gloves for triumphs against Crystal Palace and Lille, then started the Carabao Cup final, another meeting with Liverpool.

Thomas Tuchel’s team took the Reds all the way to penalties, but failed at the very last hurdle.

That hurdle being toppled over by Kepa, who was introduced just before the spot-kicks because of his expertise in such scenarios.

From hero to villain

The 27-year-old saved twice from 12-yards in the UEFA Super Cup final and denied players from Aston Villa and Southampton in the run-up to the Carabao Cup showpiece event.

However, his hands evaded him in the finale, as Liverpool managed to score all 11 of their penalties.

With sudden death at its peak, Chelsea’s goalkeeper had to stick one away to restart the process.

He could only blaze the ball high into the Wembley crowd, handing Jurgen Klopp the trophy.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

If the upcoming FA Cup final goes all the way again, Tuchel might think twice about giving Kepa the reigns at the crucial moment.

Substituting on Kepa is not what Mers wants to see

“Finally, if the game does go to penalties, I really hope Chelsea don’t bring Kepa Arrizabalaga on!” insisted Merson.  

“We saw what happened last time out and I think they’ll be better of with Edouard Mendy, who has been a top-class addition to the side since his move from Rennes in 2020.”

Mendy must feel pretty confident about keeping his place for the entirety of tomorrow’s contest, considering his decent recent penalty record.

He saved one in the AFCON final, doing so twice in Senegal’s World Cup play-off final against Egypt.

Yet, he hasn’t prevented any of the eight in-game penalties taken against him this season.

Let’s just hope we can finish off Liverpool in 90 minutes!

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.