Interview

Kepa Arrizabalaga welcomes new and returning faces

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is certain Chelsea’s performances can only improve as senior players return to the line-up and our youngsters continue to adapt to life in the Blues’ first team.

Despite two strong performances full of promise in our opening matches, against Manchester United in the Premier League and in the UEFA Super Cup with Liverpool, we will be looking for our first win of the season when we host Leicester City in our first home game of 2019/20.

However, with some of the players who missed one or both of those matches returning to action, Kepa is optimistic about our chances of picking up all three points against the Foxes.

‘It is true that it wasn’t the best match to start the season, it wasn’t the result that we were looking for,’ said the Spaniard. ‘Against Liverpool we played a really good match, irrespective of the opposition we played really well, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when you lose on penalties like that. We’ve got three matches now until the international break and we need to carry on along the same line we’ve been going, but get better results.

‘N’Golo Kante is a really important player for us. He’s already had such a great career, he’s won the World Cup and was voted the best player in the Premier League when he won that trophy, and it’s true that against Liverpool he surprised even us, because in pre-season he had injury problems, he had to train apart, and it was only after playing 20 minutes against Man United that he came back into the team. But he showed his quality out on the pitch and he’s someone we all really notice his presence when he’s there.’

‘We’ve got a young team so in many ways we are a team that’s in development, because we have new players coming in, young players, and we’ve lost an important player from last season of course and had a change of manager. So the team is in a phase of building at the moment but we’ve got really important players coming back, players coming back from injury or like Willian who was out at the Copa America, and they’re going to come back into the team and really help us to strengthen what we’ve already got in place.’

As he mentioned, the squad has several young Academy graduates integrating into the first team in the early stages of this season, and 24-year-old is excited about what the future holds for both them and the team.

‘They’ve got a really big opportunity right now,’ continued Kepa. ‘Players from the Academy who have been at Chelsea for such a long time and have come through the different levels here, so they know Chelsea and they might have been out on loans in the last few years but now they’re coming back with a real opportunity to become great players at this club. So it’s a big opportunity for them but it’s also a great opportunity for us to integrate players who really know the team into Chelsea and now’s their opportunity.’

However, while he sees plenty of reasons for optimism both for today’s match and the season ahead, Kepa is under no illusions about how difficult our next opponents could be, especially their experienced strike force.

‘We have a very difficult match this weekend, at home against a team who caused us trouble last year. They’ve lost Harry Maguire, an important player for them, but they’ve added reinforcements, like Ayoze Perez who knows the league and scored lots of goals at Newcastle. In Jamie Vardy they’ve got a player who really attacks the spaces. He’s got great pace, he knows the league well and he’s always a danger. So it’s up to us to be attentive to the threat that he poses.’

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