Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta hails Kepa Arrizabalaga’s ‘incredible’ mentality after unexpected revival

Kepa had to replace Edouard Mendy after losing the trust of former managers and teammates.

But the £71.6m signing from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 has played every minute under new boss Graham Potter and is in the shape of his life.

He couldn’t prevent Casemiro’s late header as Chelsea were held 1-1 by Manchester United on Saturday, but Azpilicueta said: “I’m really happy for him.

“Of course he had difficult times but his strength is always staying positive, training hard every day and we know that as a player you want to play all the time, but the manager makes the decision. .

“As a goalkeeper, it’s a unique position where I can’t say [much about it] because they often train alone. They spend a lot of time together so it’s a very rare position with their own pressure. They are the last man in goal and every mistake is very watchable and a lot of people criticize them.

Cesar Azpilicueta is delighted to see his compatriot Kepa Arrizabalaga bounce back at Chelsea

/ PA

“I’m very happy for him, it shows his mentality of being strong, continuing to work hard and waiting for his chance. We have a fantastic group of goalkeepers with Edou [Mendy]Paris [Marcus Bettinelli] and it’s the joy of our team to have these guys every day.

“Whoever plays, everyone is 100 per cent and the next day everyone is trying to help. We are very lucky to have an incredible group of goalkeepers.

Kepa is hoping for a recall to the Spain squad for the World Cup but faces huge competition from Premier League trio David De Gea, Robert Sanchez and David Raya behind current No1 Unai Simon.

Azpilicueta stopped short of saying Kepa should be the first choice for Spain but thinks he should at least be in the conversation.

The Chelsea defender said: “Yes, him and David [are playing well]. They have both been in England for a long time. We are lucky to have very good goalkeepers in Spain.

Azpilicueta will be hoping for a place in the Spain squad himself after returning to the Chelsea squad following Reece James’ injury.

The 33-year-old played an important role in Chelsea’s clear run, which finally came to an end after more than 10 hours when Casemiro equalized in the 94th minute on Saturday.

Azpilicueta is happy with the way Chelsea are defending and thinks the attacking fluidity will come.

He said: “Everyone would like to play amazing stuff from start to finish, play amazing football, control the game, always win 3-0 but sometimes you have to go through times when the performance is not so good but you find the fighting spirit in short.

“We want to improve. We are the first to want to improve because if you play better you have more chances to win games, we must continue.

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