The Chelsea goalkeeper has started La Roja’s last three contests and appears to have claimed the No.1 shirt from his United counterpart for now
David de Gea’s time as Spain No.1 is not over, according to Robert Moreno, but the assistant coach conceded Kepa Arrizabalaga’s end-of-season form has influenced the decision to start the Chelsea man in the short term.
Kepa has now started Spain’s last three international clashes, and while Euro qualification matches against minnows Malta and the Faroe Islands did not raise eyebrows, his continuation in the lineup against Sweden did.
De Gea came under fire with Spain for his performances during the World Cup, as well as the Nations League, leading to question over his place in the squad.
And while Kepa’s three straight starts, and two clean sheets, seem to have answered that question for now, Moreno does not believe it is a settled matter.
Instead, he pointed to the end of the season, where Kepa shined as Chelsea won the Europa League, and De Gea struggled while Manchester United finished sixth, as influencing the current state of play in goal.
“We don’t think the De Gea period with Spain is over,” Moreno told reporters. “But Kepa had an incredible end of the season – champion of the Europa League with great performances. In this concrete moment, we thought that Kepa could help us in a better way.
“The competition is now on. When you have something easy, you get relaxed, and that’s not good. The competitiveness is also good in goal.”
Moreno revealed he and head coach Luis Enrique, who is away from the team with a personal matter, had some question over Kepa’s concentration but once that was resolved, decided to give him both starts.
“It’s not just about one single thing,” Moreno said. “We already watched Kepa play quite well in the Europa League, so you could already guess he was in good shape. But we had to check it in the team.
“I talked to Luis Enrique on Friday, right before the game, and we chatted about it. And after the game, we decided to keep him in the lineup.
“It’s not one concrete moment when we decided it, but we started commenting the lineup a long time ago, and then when you have all the info on your hands, that’s what gives you the last push to take the decision”.
For his part, Kepa wanted to be left out of the debate, as his focus is on helping Spain continue to perform in Euro qualifying, where they remain perfect through four games.
“We are always involved in these kind of debates from the media,” Kepa said. “We have to take it naturally, this is football. I’m happy to be playing, to help the team, and finish this season in the best possible way.
“I’m going to keep working as I’ve done to now, trying to do as best as possible with my club, and hopefully, keeping the trust of the national team coach.
“At the end, we all want to play. Pau Lopez, De Gea and I train to play, and after all, it’s a coach decision. It’s his responsibility”.
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