On 8th August 2018, Chelsea announced they have secured the services of Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga for €80m /£71.6m making him the world’s most expensive goalkeeper only a week after the record was set by Liverpool bringing in Alisson.
While the Brazilian has become arguably the world’s best goalkeeper winning trophies at club and international level and collecting every individual possible for a goalkeeper, things have not gone according to plan for Chelsea and Kepa.
In first season at Stamford Bridge, Kepa gave some solid performances helping the club to an EFL Cup Final and an Europa League triumph contributing to 14 clean-sheets in 38 games. But his form in the 19/20 season under new head coach Frank Lampard has dipped dramatically recording just 8 clean-sheets even getting benched for a quarter of a season for 38-year-old Willy Caballero.
His save percent has been somewhat of a recurring stat with even the average football fan knows that he saved just 54.5% shots faced last season. But Petr Cech, arguably the Premier League’s best goalkeeper and Chelsea’s Technical and Performance Advisor has backed the out-of-favor goalkeeper saying,
“Kepa struggled last season, that is unquestionable. But the club invested in him and gave him a long-term contract because they believe he has the qualities and attributes to be successful. Additions will be made to the squad, perhaps even in goal, and this is what is being discussed now. But nobody is giving up on Kepa and we all hope he has a great future.”
His struggles are not down to him only, he is a victim of playing behind a defense which has looked shaky, inexperienced and in some ways not ready to handle pressure situations in big matches.
In Courtois’s first season he played behind John Terry who played every minute of the championship winning team, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanović both Champions League winners and a young and exciting future Chelsea skipper César Azpilecueta. On the other hand Kepa has played with a defense which is been constantly been tinkered across the 19-20 season. Azpilicueta has played left-back and right back, James has played as a wing-back and right-back while Frank has consistently rotated the centre-backs which is always difficult for a goalkeeper. A stable defensive structure and consistent personnel is always the key to a sound defense.
Kepa is in difficult situation like Manchester United great David de Gea was in his first few season at Old Trafford. Kepa already has the requirements of a modern day goalkeeper – wide passing range and sweeper keeper abilities.
His performances in 19-20 season may have not been upto the mark but the kind of money that Chelsea have paid, they don’t have any option but persist with him and hope that he can turn into the keeper that Chelsea fans always dreamt of.