Thomas Tuchel refused to blame Kepa Arrizabalaga for Chelsea’s League Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool after the Spanish goalkeeper was sent on in extra-time specifically for the spot-kicks. However, he would not have expected to step up himself to take a penalty.
A set of 100 per cent penalties from the outfield players left the two goalkeepers to convert their spot-kicks, while Caoimhin Kelleher dispatched his, Kepa sent his over the crossbar. But the Chelsea manager said if there was anyone to blame, then it was him.
“Do you think we do this and don’t talk to the players? The players know the plan and we have done it before,” Tuchel said. “If you want to blame somebody, blame me; this is not a problem. I take the decisions and I don’t take them to try to be the hero. Today it took 11 penalties to find the winner. And if you want to blame anyone blame me, there’s no problem.”
Tuchel had originally opted for Edouard Mendy in his starting XI ahead of Kepa, who is Chelsea’s defacto cup ‘keeper, but chose to send his No.2 on in the final three minutes of extra-time with penalties becoming an inevitably. The same switch had paid off in Belfast earlier in the season when Chelsea prevailed 6-5 against Villarreal in the Uefa Super Cup.
“It is so bad for him of course, but no blame of course,” the Chelsea manager added. “We took the decision like we did last time in a penalty shoot-out, because Kepa is training with the players on a daily basis. They know how good he is and he simply has more time to do this than Edou [Mendy] on the training ground.
“This plays a huge part in how good we shot today. Unfortunately he could not save any, the pens were brilliantly taken. It was a bit harsh on him today to be the guy to miss the one and only penalty today but there’s no blame.
“I take the decisions when I take the decisions and I only take them when I want to take them. I cannot re-judge my decisions after the outcome. We cannot know what would have happened if we had left Edou on the pitch. So of course if there’s any blame, it’s blame on me. I’m the guy to take the decisions, sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not.
“This is life as a football coach, and as a football coach who makes substitutions. So there are no regrets, I take the blame and responsibility for that of course.”
'I'm very proud of our performance'
Aside from Kepa’s missed penalty, Chelsea were left to rue three goals ruled out for offside. Kai Havertz had the ball in the back of the net twice and Romelu Lukaku also had an effort disallowed, although the Belgian’s offside was ever so marginal. Liverpool also saw Joel Matip’s goal chalked off for an offside.
“If you look at the line that’s drawn in the goal for Romelu, it’s a bit of a weird line to make the decision that it’s offside,” Tuchel said. “But that’s it, we cannot have any regret, I’m very proud of the performance of the team. There’s a lot of good things and I told the guys we should not lose sleep about this.
“I think we have to accept the quality also of the opponent. They are maybe the most dangerous attacking side at the moment in Europe, they are full of individual quality and with such a high rhythm. And so defending with the quality we did and playing like this made me so proud today.”