This season, the amount of Chelsea players who have exceeded expectations has been astounding. So many stars have left fans in awe by going above and beyond expectations in difficult circumstances, but one first-team player who has seemingly been left behind is goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Spaniard has kept just four clean sheets in all competitions this season and, more individually, he has conceded plenty of goals which he probably shouldn’t have. His frailties have been on show far too often and they were worryingly evident in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Valencia.
Carlos Soler’s opening goal was fired almost directly at Kepa, but the Spaniard could only palm the ball into the net behind him. Admittedly, the shot took two separate deflections, but Kepa will still have been disappointed with his own efforts.
The Spaniard went from villain to hero when he saved a penalty during the second half, but he ended the match on a sour note as he failed to deal with Daniel Wass’ cross and let the ball soar over his head and into the back of the net.
It’s something which we have seen far too often from Kepa this season and nobody really knows how to fix it. Goalkeeping coach Henrique Hilario has attracted plenty of criticism for his failures to help Kepa, but there’s no way he is solely the man to blame.
Instead, it simply looks to be a serious loss of form. Kepa deserves credit for some outstanding saves last season, and his quality has been clear to see on a number of occasions, but there is only so many times he can cost Chelsea points before fans start to get concerned.
After all, this is the most expensive goalkeeper in world football. The Blues parted with a whopping £71m to bring Kepa to Stamford Bridge, and that price tag comes with obvious expectations which, at the minute, he is not living up to.
With that kind of expense, Chelsea aren’t just going to drop Kepa any time soon. Willy Caballero is a solid backup, but he should not be relied upon as a regular starter. It’s Kepa’s duty to perform, so the Blues need to figure things out.
Is the answer to bring goalkeeping coach Shay Given in from Derby County? It might be part of the solution, but it may also just be a question of waiting for Kepa to work his way through his struggles.
He’s by no means the only goalkeeper to lose form. He has drawn plenty of comparisons to fellow Spaniard David de Gea, who was infamously poor during his early years with Manchester United.
United gave De Gea the time he needed to recover, and Chelsea must do the same with Kepa. He has the potential to become one of the greatest around, but that isn’t good enough. He needs to be one of the finest talents now.
With so many youngsters and academy stars in their team, it is actually some of Chelsea’s most experienced players who are letting the team down. The Blues cannot afford to keep conceding sloppy goals, and that means Kepa needs to start saving shots again.
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