Chelsea have been the “kings of the transfer window” ever since the club’s purchase by American billionaire Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. The new owners have splashed the cash quite literally to improve the squad and have already spent upwards of 600 million pounds in two transfer windows. The club is going through a transitional phase with major changes both on and off the pitch but faces a crucial summer.
Despite the excitement around the club about the young talented players who have joined on lengthy contracts, the mood amongst the already existing players isn’t as jovial. Chelsea have to resolve their goalkeeping issues this summer as their out-of-favour Senegalese shot-stopper Edouard Mendy’s future is still up in the air.
The mid-season appointment of Graham Potter saw the English coach having to decide between who he prefers as his no.1 and the former Brighton manager has decided to stick with Kepa Arrizabalaga so far. Mendy hasn’t featured for the Blues since 12th November’s defeat at Newcastle United after the 30-year-old picked up a shoulder injury which was followed by an injury to his finger in training which required the goalie to undergo an operation.
A Goalkeeper’s new role in modern football
In this rapidly changing world, the sport has also changed drastically as coaches no longer follow the traditional philosophies of the game and have introduced their own new philosophies to suit their style of play. The goalkeeper’s job in the past was to keep the ball out of the goalie. Shot stopping and being his team’s last man. This no longer seems to be the case as all the top managers in world football now see the goalkeepers as their 11th outfield player instead of having 10 outfield players. The role of a goalie now has changed to being an extra passing option in the build-up play from defense to attack while also being an excellent distributor of the ball to beat the opposition press.
Graham Potter’s system involves his goalkeeper being involved in the build-up phase to draw out the opposition and create space for the offensive players to exploit. Edouard Mendy’s weakness is his ability with the ball at his feet given he isn’t the best decision-maker in such situations often leading to crucial mistakes. Kepa, on the other hand, is excellent on the ball and is a great ball distributor who has become a reliable passing option when in possession. The Spaniard also looks like he has rediscovered his form as he has an 81% save percentage in the league this season which certainly highlights he has improved on his shot-stopping skills. Though the results aren’t going their way, Kepa looks like he has cemented his place as the no.1 until atleast the end of the season and it looks like a tough comeback for Mendy to make and earn a starting position again.
The Boehly-Clearlake leadership have certainly revolutionized football in their approach of offering players incentive based lengthy contracts to spread their wages over the course of the contract and reduce the burden on their books of accounts. Very few of the elite European clubs have done this in the past but the Blues look determined to adopt this policy in order to sign young talents and build a competitive squad. A first contract approach was made to Edouard Mendy and his representatives in December offering the player a hefty 6 year renewal which would see him play for the Blues until he will be 36 years old. This offer was immediately snubbed by the player and considered to be “disrespectful” as the wages offered weren’t on par with his colleague Kepa’s wages which are at a staggering 180,000 pounds a week.
It is understandable why the Senegalese would hope to earn anywhere close to Kepa who hasn’t cemented his place as the no.1 goalkeeper at the club and his outstanding performances for the Blues last season which saw him concede just 31 goals in 34 appearances in the Premier League while also keeping 23 clean sheets in 40 appearances across all competitions. Since this first approach, the Blues are yet to resume contract talks and there have been no clear indications that the club are willing to extend Mendy’s contract.
Chelsea spent 15 million dollars on highly-rated goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina in the summer from the MLS making the 18-year-old the most expensive teenage transfer in the league’s history. The teenager is currently representing the Blues in the PL2 and is a possible Mendy replacement if the club decide to cash in on the Senegalese. Kepa’s current form makes him a solid no.1 option for Potter and making Slonina the no.2 next season could be the ideal plan while also looking to recoup the 25 million pounds spent on Mendy in the summer. There was interest from AC Milan, AS Monaco and OGC Nice in signing the 30-year-old in the January transfer window according to various sources. The goalkeeping situation in West London is certainly an interesting one to keep an eye out for during the summer for the Blues.