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When Thibaut Courtois departed Stamford Bridge in rather acrimonious circumstances at the beginning of the 2018/2019, Chelsea was left in a difficult situation.
As a result of poor planning and a genuine dearth of top-class goalkeepers willing to sign for the club, the Blues hastily triggered Kepa Arrizabalaga’s £71.6m release clause, making the Spaniard the most expensive keeper of all time.
Signing on a seven-year deal – quite a statement of confidence in the player’s abilities – Kepa is certainly at Chelsea for the long haul, which makes his recent dip in form all the more concerning.
Last season, the 25-year-old performed adequately. The Spaniard kept 14 clean sheets, the joint-third best in the Premier League, and also finished the campaign with a 66.7 save percentage, good enough to earn him a ninth spot in the league.
There was, of course, the unfortunate Carabao Cup final incident when the Spaniard refused to be substituted for penalty specialist Willy Caballero. In the shootout that followed Kepa made just one save, allowing Sergio Aguero’s spot-kick to squirm under his body as the Citizens went on to lift the trophy.
This pretty significant black spot aside though, his inaugural Stamford Bridge season went fairly well. It may not have been perfect, but David de Gea’s start to his Manchester United career was arguably less encouraging and look how he turned out.
However, in this campaign Kepa has been massively underwhelming. Courtesy of Opta, it has been revealed that Chelsea has conceded from 16% of shots faced in the Premier League this season. Incredibly, no side have conceded a higher proportion in the competition during a single campaign since data was collected for the first time in 2003/2004.
Things look even less rosy for Kepa when you factor in that he has registered the lowest save percentage out of any Premier League goalkeeper this season. According to FBRef, the Blues stopper has saved just 53.6% of the shots he has faced.
The stats will worry Frank Lampard but perhaps an even a bigger problem is Kepa’s tendency to dawdle on the ball. In the opening exchanges of Arsenal’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, indecision nearly led to the Gunners dispossessing the Blues goalkeeper, with Lampard looking visibly frustrated on the sidelines.
“I know there’s a focus on him at the minute. I think that’s top-line football,” the Chelsea boss said, via the Metro.
“With his feet a couple of times today he took too long and nearly gave it away. And sometimes that can change the momentum of a game.
“So that’s something obviously that he’ll know and has to look at – and we have to look at.”
He may be struggling but as much as we would like to see 38-year-old Caballero’s bald head glisten in the west London sun once again, do not expect the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to be dropped to the bench any time soon.
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