Tuchel discusses Kepa’s future, thanks fans for his new banner and assesses James’s potential

With the season now days away from its domestic conclusion, Thomas Tuchel’s attention has started to turn towards the future and what his squad might look like at the start of the next campaign.

Following Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City, the Blues have all but secured a top-three finish in the Premier League courtesy of our vastly superior goal difference over fourth-placed Tottenham. We host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Sunday with little more than pride on the line and a desire to sign off in style ahead of the summer break.

While our change of ownership has left Tuchel hamstrung in making early transfer plans, the Chelsea head coach clearly has ideas about which players might depart and arrive in west London over the coming months.

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s future remains the subject of speculation at the end of a season in which the 27-year-old has made four league appearances and Tuchel acknowledges that the Spaniard has been frustrated at his lack of game time, even if Edouard Mendy has performed impressively as our first choice between the sticks.

‘It depends what he wants and what his plans are,’ said the boss on Kepa’s future, speaking during his final pre-match press conference of the season. 

‘I know that we are very privileged to have Edou and Kepa in our squad but I also know for sure that Kepa is not happy about the situation because he deserved to play more and he can be a very strong number one. He arrived as a number one so the situation is not easy. He has been a fantastic team player since day one and never let anybody down. 

'We did not have a conversation yet but I know that the goalkeeper coaches have these conversations at the moment and then we will take our time to speak with him and reflect on what’s best and what the possibilities are. As a coach, of course I’m super happy to have both strong goalkeepers so let’s see.’

While Marcos Alonso got the goal that earned us a point against the Foxes, it was his fellow wing-back Reece James who caught the eye once again with an energetic display across the pitch.

The England international played in a number of positions throughout, including in midfield and further forward, with Tuchel left praising his ability and potential, while also bemoaning the fact that injuries have curtailed his involvement for much of this term.

‘He has everything what it takes to be one of the very best but there is a long way to go for Reece,’ explained Tuchel. ‘He has incredible potential and ability - the foundation, the body and the mindset to make his way to the very top.

‘There’s still a long way to go but we will support him and push him that he can be that player for Chelsea. We lacked huge quality this season from Reece, N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell. It’s maybe a miracle that we are in the top three for the whole season without these key players because we missed them for weeks and weeks.’

After guiding the team to another two trophies this season, following on from our heroic Champions League triumph a year ago, Chelsea supporters unveiled a new banner in homage to the boss prior to kick-off against Leicester.

Tuchel’s face said it all when he spotted the display after emerging from the tunnel and he expressed his gratitude to the fans for the act of support.

‘I was very happy,’ he admitted. ‘I never had any banner and I was actually looking at the banner for Mason Mount until somebody told me there’s another banner on the other side.

‘It’s very nice so thank you very much. I will do my best to earn it.’

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