Thomas Tuchel explained his extra-time goalkeeper substitution was based on statistical data, not spontaneity, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two shoot-out saves to win the Super Cup for Chelsea.
Gerard Moreno’s second-half strike cancelled out Hakim Ziyech’s opener at Windsor Park and, with penalties looming, Tuchel sent on Kepa for Edouard Mendy in the closing minutes.
The Spain goalkeeper denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol in the shoot-out, ensuring a 6-5 penalties win for Chelsea after a 1-1 draw to secure their second Super Cup.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Tuchel explained his decision to bring on Kepa was pre-discussed and based on data introduced to him by his analysts and goalkeeping coaches.
“It was not spontaneous,” Tuchel responded when asked about the extra-time change. “We talked about it with the goalkeepers after the first cup game against Barnsley. We had some statistics. We were well prepared.”
“Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties. We spoke to the players that this could happen when we play in knockout games. It’s fantastic how Edouard [Mendy] accepted it.
“There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline. They’re team players. Edouard does not show the pride to not step off the field. He was happy to do it for the team and take this for the team.”
8/9 – The Champions League winners have now won the UEFA Super Cup in eight of the last nine seasons, while they had won just four of the previous nine before this run. Dominance. pic.twitter.com/lNRFDz2RLW
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2021
It was a strange reversal of roles for the former Athletic Bilbao man – the world’s most expensive goalkeeper – who in the 2019 EFL Cup final refused to go off when then-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri attempted to bring on Willy Caballero. Chelsea went on to lose on penalties to Manchester City.
However, Kepa’s heroics in Belfast banished any potential Super Cup demons for Chelsea, who picked up their first triumph since 1998, having lost to Atletico Madrid in 2012 and suffered shoot-out heartbreak against both Bayern Munich and Liverpool in 2013 and 2019.
Wednesday’s win also ensured Tuchel, the third German coach in a row to lift the Super Cup after Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick, maintained his perfect record against Spanish opposition, winning four and drawing five of nine games.
It was not all good news after Chelsea’s win, however, with Hakim Ziyech’s shoulder injury marring another memorable European outing for Tuchel’s men.
Ziyech did return to the stands in the second half with his arm in a sling, though Tuchel conceded “if you take a player out during the first half it’s serious.”
Chelsea will await news on the extent of Ziyech’s injury while their attention now turns to hosting Crystal Palace in their Premier League opener on Saturday.