Thibaut Courtois refusal to turn up for pre-season training sparked a fury of activity behind the scenes. Chelsea now needed a goalkeeper by the end of the week or face a future of Willy Caballero backed up by Robert Green.
In style similar to that of Chelsea of old, a release clause was met, and Kepa was a Chelsea player. Courtois got his move, and Chelsea got their goalkeeper. Problem solved. Or is it?
Five games in and we’re still unsure about just how good Kepa is. Still only 23-years-old, there’s been some bright moments in his short Chelsea career, but also a few eyebrow-raising moments as well.
Having bulked initially at Allision’s price tag, who for a short period was a record signing for a goalkeeper at £66million from Roma to Liverpool.
Chelsea had seemingly been forced into a position where they had to spend £71 million (a new record). A move which saw many label the signing as a ‘panic buy’. Kepa claimed in his first interviews as a Chelsea player that the club had followed him for some time.
But depending on what you read and who you believe, this really was a last minute dot com signing. The Spanish international may have cost £71 million, but factor in the £35 million fee received for Courtois and the seven-year contract at significantly lesser wages, you can understand why the club was happy to pull the trigger on the deal.
It may seem good value on paper, but that value will only ever be realised on the pitch. Kepa will need to reach the heights of his two predecessors in the Chelsea goal. Both Petr Cech and Courtois were world class goalkeepers. And as much as it may pain some people to admit it, but we’ve sold a goalkeeper about to hit the peak of his career, and in that sense, we have downgraded.
However, we may, in the next two/three years have a goalkeeper who is challenging for the title of the worlds best. Kepa is knocking on the door of the National team, having been an unused member of the disastrous Spain World Cup team.
And with David De Gea standing in his way, it’s going to need some outstanding performances for Chelsea in the Premier League for him to get a chance for Spain. As of now, we haven’t really seen much of what Kepa is capable of.
A couple of decent but expected saves is all we’ve really had in his first five games. His communication seems to be really strong, which is much needed in a vulnerable defence.
However, his Chelsea career has been shadowed by a mistake against Arsenal and some nervous moments against some long balls into the box from Bournemouth and Cardiff City.
Kepa does look comfortable with the ball at his feet, something that is very much in fashion for the modern day goalkeeper and for the way in which Sarri likes to play.
For me, the biggest issue facing Kepa right now is that he isn’t at the level of Courtois just yet and that will be held against him.
Add to that his fragile defence, we may be looking at a situation the club has not faced for the past 15 years where we are seeking a top-level goalkeeper.
However, as Sarri has said, it will take a few months for Chelsea to begin to play the style that he is demanding of his players.
And it’s only then will we see whether Kepa really is a keeper.
What are your thoughts? Let us know!
Written by Dean Mears – @DeanMears