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Kepa Arrizabalaga: Why Chelsea and Spain keeper can turn it around

Kepa Arrizabalaga was one of Europe’s most sought after goalkeeper’s 2-3 years ago. Coming through the fabled Athletic Bilbao youth system and breaking into the first team, the Spaniard was heavily linked to Real Madrid in 2018. Yet Chelsea pounced on him in the summer, triggering his staggering £71.6 million release clause and replacing Thibaut Courtois. A gamble on a exciting but unproven shot-stopper. It’s fair to say the gamble hasn’t paid off so far.

At the time of writing this, he’s just put in an incredible display vs Liverpool. A stunning 3 saves in quick succession to help Chelsea keep progress to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup. A massive game and clean sheet for the under fire goal keeper. Exactly the confidence booster he needs.

Our piece below reinforces why the Spaniard is NOT finished at Stamford Bridge and deserves more chances. Like today against the Reds:

2018/19 – From zero to hero

The 25 year old has struggled to really settle in England, particularly in 2019/20. Last season, of course his entire season was clouded by the Maurizio Sarri incident. Refusing to be substituted and sending his manager into a meltdown on the sideline. Unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and to top it off, Kepa wasn’t great in the penalty shootout. So just months into his Blues career, he was already villain of the state.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

But credit to him, he bounced back well. Moments such as being the difference in the Europa League semi-final penalty shootout showed the Bilbao youth product has the ability. He finished 3rd in 2018/19 for clean sheets behind Ederson and Alisson. Being picked ahead of David De Gea for Spain during an international break in 2019 was a testament to the progress he was making.

2019/20 – Well below par

Yet now in 2019/20, Kepa has gone backwards again. The worrying thing is that it’s not a slight drop off either. The stats have completely jumped off a cliff for the keeper. We mentioned before how measuring the performance of goalkeeper’s isn’t exactly easy or accurate. Considering the amount of factors that can influence the different metrics that are commonly used, a goalkeeper’s ability can often be misled by the quality of the defence in front of them. A link to that article HERE, if you’re interested.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

When you’re dwelling near the bottom for every single goalkeeper stat, there are clearly issues. Clearly confirmed by the fact the Spanish international has now been dropped for Willy Caballero in the starting XI. Granted the defence in front of him haven’t done him any favours, conceding the most goals out of any side in the top 10. But after being dropped for the Argentine, Lampard clearly doesn’t have confidence in his number one.

With just 5 clean sheets in 24 appearances, Kepa’s save percentage is one of the worst out of any keeper in the league. 0.536% is 19th out of all the goalkeepers. To put that into perspective, Dean Henderson and Vicente Guaita are 2nd and 3rd with 0.750% and 0.743% respectively. Stat courtesy of FBREF.

Kepa Arrizabalaga – Is he really the issue?

When you watch Kepa play this season, there’s evidently a lack of confidence. Occasionally, he’ll make an acrobatic world class save and look on form. But the majority of the time, his positioning leaves himself exposed. Though he hasn’t had any direct errors leading to goals for Chelsea this season, it’s the positioning that’s been the issue. Had he read the shot better and been in a better starting place, he would’ve saved it. Those sorts of scenarios. You think of the Hakim Ziyech free kick in the group stage game against Ajax. Had he read the flight of the ball better, he may have had a better chance of saving it. Perhaps a harsh example, but that’s what you expect from a top level keeper.

Kepa Arrizabalaga in action for Chelsea

Good news for the world’s most expensive keeper is that Caballero hasn’t been much better. In fact, with 0 clean sheets since coming into the team, the 38 year old has been worse, perhaps suggesting it’s an issue with the defense as a whole. Conceding 10 goals from 21 shots on target, there’s not been an improvement, so expect a recall a soon for the Spaniard.

Kepa Arrizabalaga – Why he deserves another chance

Kepa Arrizabalaga is not a bad keeper and I stand by that. He’s just going through a rough patch and deserves another chance. The defence in front of him leaking goals left, right and centre show he isn’t the sole problem. Just look at Willy Caballero’s performances to see that. Funnily enough, former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois was poor in first season for Real Madrid. Fans were calling for his head after just a year at the Bernabeu and a recall for Keylor Navas seemed inevitable. Classic Madrid fans. Yet Zinedine Zidane showed faith in the Belgian and in fact sold Navas to confirm his confidence in him. Now, Courtois is on the way up again.

In some ways, this will be a test for Frank Lampard. Does he show faith in a still young keeper at 25 years old and give him the confidence he needs? Or will Kepa be out of the door come the summer? Perhaps dropping him is part of the man-management. Take him out of the firing line and this lesson will be the making of him. Kepa could come back better than ever, or never be the same. One of the two mentalities, let’s hope it’s the former.

Kepa Arrizabalaga and Chelsea manager Frank Lampard

I think he deserves another chance next season in front of a better defence, something I’m sure Chelsea will be looking at. Rudiger and Zouma are just too inconsistent. Then if he still under performs, cut your losses the following summer. That’s just my opinion, let me know your thoughts in comments below.

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