Chelsea lifted a second European title in four months under Thomas Tuchel by beating Villarreal on penalties 6-5 and the German tactician has provided an insight into the tactical sleight of hand which saw goalkeeper Edouard Mendy go off for Kepa Arrizabalaga who emerged the hero after saving two penalties on the night.
The Blues looked to be faced with the same fate as Manchester United when their clash in Belfast went all the way to penalties after goals from Hakim Ziyech and Gerard Moreno had ended affairs at 1-1 in regulation time.
Tuchel then made the inspired decision to swap goalkeepers and brought in Arrizabalaga who’s often been severely criticised for some telling errors.
It proved to be a stroke of genius with Kepa essentially winning the trophy for Chelsea by way of making crucial saves from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol.
However, with many fans on social media questioning whether Kepa actually had that good of a record in penalty shootouts, there remained a degree of intrigue surrounding Tuchel’s decision.
Naturally, though, that was the very first question that was put to the Chelsea boss when he conducted post-match interviews – and he wasn’t shy about explaining the reasoning.
And it turns out that Tuchel’s tactic has been pencilled in from his very first cup fixture at Chelsea, which took place at Barnsley in February, with Kepa finally putting it into practice at Windsor Park.
“It was not spontaneous,” Tuchel confirmed afterwards. “We talked about it with the goalkeepers when we came in the first cup game against Barnsley. We had some statistics. We were well prepared that Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties.
“The analysing guys, the goalkeeper coaches showed me and introduced me to the data and then we spoke to the players and told them it could happen in cup games.
“We spoke to the players and Edou was fantastic. We do what we need to do for the team. There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline and these guys are true team players.
“I am happy for Kepa and for Edou to have a goalkeeper like this that does not show the pride to not step off the field. He is happy to do this for the team and take this for the team.”
The Blues begin their Premier League campaign on Saturday with a home match against Crystal Palace.