The secret to Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s impressive penalty record? A combination of good fortune and practice.
The Spaniard has overcome two shoot-outs in Round Three and Round Four of the Carabao Cup as the West Londoners saw off Southampton and Aston Villa to book their place in the Quarter-Final.
In an exclusive interview with the EFL, the Blues shot-stopper looks ahead to next month, as Chelsea prepare to face Brentford, marking the first encounter between the cross-city London rivals in the competition.
Let’s start by looking back at your performance against Southampton in Round Four… you played a big part in helping Chelsea reach the Quarter-Finals, how pleased were you with your display?
It was a good moment for me, because I want to take my opportunities when they arrive. We played against a very good team; we know how they play, they’re very physical and hard to play against. It was a tough game to play at home, but we finished it in the best way, by reaching the next round.
You were also nominated for the Player of the Round award… was it nice to be recognised for your performance that day?
To me, the most important thing is to help the team and be happy with your performance. If you’re nominated, it’s a consequence of that, but I just want to help the team. I think I did that against Southampton, so I’m happy because of that.
Talk to us about your penalty-saving record! How much do you practice in training?
I like penalties, I always have since I was young! I won many shoot-outs during my days in the academy, but I think it’s about a bit of luck and a bit of training. You have to have mental strength and manage the situation, so it’s a bit of everything really. I feel good in those situations; I’m happy when we arrive at penalties and hopefully we can keep like this.
Of course, it’s Brentford in the next round for a chance to reach the Semi-Finals – how much are you looking forward to that game?
It’s a few weeks away still, but I’m looking forward to it. We know December in England is crazy with a lot of games, so you have to go step by step. We know they’re a tough team; we played them recently and it was hard to win there, so we’ll need to put in our best performance to go through.
Chelsea are having an excellent season in the Premier League… how much belief has Thomas Tuchel brought to Chelsea since he arrived?
Last season, we won the Champions League and the way we’re playing now is credit to him, for sure. Every single player is pushing each other to play and keep up the good results, so we have to keep going like this. There’s a long, long way to go and we’re in a good position, but we know in these competitions if you lose a few games it can be difficult. We know it will be hard work [to win the League], but we want to do it.
What would it mean to you to win the Carabao Cup with Chelsea?
It’s one trophy that I don’t have, so I want it. It’s as simple as that. This club has a big trophy mentality and wants to win every single trophy and play in as many finals as we can.
Of course, you reached the Final in 2019, does that give you more motivation to win the trophy this season?
Yeah, definitely. I came here to win trophies and we won very important trophies last season, but not this one. The Carabao Cup is a great chance to win a trophy by the end of February and, right now, I think winning any trophy is difficult. We can’t lose our focus, we have to play every game in this competition to reach the Final and will push each other to do that.
You helped Chelsea reach that Final by saving a penalty against Tottenham – how well do you remember that moment?
It was my first season and I remember it well because it was a London derby with a big atmosphere. We went to penalties and it was a good moment for me, they missed one and I saved one. It was my first Final in a Chelsea shirt, so I remember that moment.
To play at Wembley as well, that must be a big motivation again this time around…
Of course, of course. It’s always good to reach Wembley, because normally it’s for a good reason! You feel the atmosphere, the aura, the stadium. Hopefully we can get there in the Carabao Cup this season, we’ll work for that.