Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga was at the centre of controversy during the Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool on Sunday evening.
Thomas Tuchel rolled the dice in the closing minutes of extra time at Wembley Stadium by taking off Edouard Mendy in place of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper just as he did in the UEFA Super Cup.
It certainly felt like a heady moment when you consider that Kepa had refused to exit the pitch when Maurizio Sarri attempted the exact same tactic with Willy Caballero during the 2019 final of the same competition.
Kepa subbed on vs Liverpool
Nevertheless, Tuchel put his faith in the statistics with Kepa not only having shone in the Villarreal showdown off the bench, but also as a starter earlier in the tournament against Aston Villa and Southampton.
But as we all know, the tactic didn’t work this time around with Kepa conceding a penalty to every single Liverpool player, before having the pressure of stepping up to take a spot-kick himself.
The result was a painful one with the 27-year-old ultimately shovelled a poor effort over the crossbar to spark scenes of delirium amongst the Liverpool players, staff and supporters.
Should Tuchel have stuck with Mendy?
A penalty miss can happen to anybody and it’s especially cruel when it befalls a goalkeeper, but the way in which the shootout unfolded nevertheless had people wondering: should Kepa have been subbed on?
Besides, if you were to tell someone without any footballing knowledge at all that a ‘keeper was brought on especially for a shootout in which they conceded 11 spot-kicks and missed the decider, they’d think it was barmy.
But by the same token, Kepa has a superior record to Mendy in penalty shootouts and the chances of him having to take a spot-kick himself were incredibly slim, so there was certainly method behind the madness.
Carragher and Redknapp’s heated debate
However, there’s no mistaking the fact that the debate surrounding Tuchel’s decision was a fervent one with Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp representing opposite ends of the conversation.
Many football fans lived vicariously through the two former Liverpool players as they went back and forth on whether or not Kepa should have been brought on during a heated debate in the Sky Sports studio.
While Carragher ultimately came out in defence of Tuchel by pointing at the statistics and precedent, Redknapp was having absolutely none of it by slamming the decision as ‘rubbish’ and ‘nonsense’.
All in all, it made for both a fascinating representation of each side of the debate and generally just an entertaining piece of television as the two pundits exchanged blows, so be sure to check it out down below:
Things got HEATED between Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp when debating the decision to bring on Kepa for the penalty shoot-out! 😡 pic.twitter.com/jA1yT7Nsd4— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 27, 2022
Who are you backing: Carragher or Redknapp?
An interesting debate
Amusingly, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was once again the man caught in the crossfire as the two Jamies slugged it out with their respective arguments, before Kelly Cates eventually wrapped things up.
It’s easy to see where both of the ex-England internationals are coming from, but it’s hard not to think that Carragher’s analysis had more grounding in statistics and past examples than his colleague’s.
After all, it’s easy to say with the knowledge that Kepa wasn’t going to save a single Liverpool penalty that he shouldn’t have been brought on despite the fact that things could easily have played out differently.
Yes, Mendy is capable of shootout heroics himself – see the Africa Cup of Nations final – but you can certainly understand why Tuchel would plump for the man with the superior data up against penalties.
And as much as we can hypothesise, speculate and debate, we will never know what might have happened in a world where Tuchel didn’t make the change that ultimately proved so key at Wembley. Who knows, who knows…