It’s been a wild few weeks for Chelsea’s under fire goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
A string of late goals has left many fans questioning the quality of our £72m shot stopper.
With the transfer ban lifted, some are calling for the club to act fast and sign a replacement with Burnley ‘keeper Nick Pope linked with a move to Stamford Bridge.
However, here’s why we need to Kepa calm and carry on.
I thought the biggest theme of this season was to trust the youth? Ok Kepa‘s a bit older than most of them at 25, but in goalkeeping terms, he’s still a baby.
There’s a story about another young Spanish goalkeeper, who at first struggled to adapt with the demands of the Premier League.
He found his place under threat from greats of the game such as Ben Foster and Tomas Kuszack.
His wise old manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, kept his faith, let him learn and develop and become one of Europe’s best goalkeepers and arguably the best goalkeeper of the past decade in the Premier League.
It was only last season remember that everybody was dreaming in their pants about Kepa replacing David de Gea as Spain’s number one.
Back three back four back five
Frank Lampard has struggled during his 23 game tenure as Chelsea manager to find his best XI or his best formation.
Do we play better with three at the back? Should it be a traditional back four or what about 5?
All of that has an impact on a goalkeeper, especially a young one under pressure.
What Kepa needs is a stable defence so he can build a relationship with them on the pitch. Near enough every week the central defensive partnership is changing.
It’s no wonder we keep making the same mistakes defensively.
Or lack of it. Many will say that great goalkeepers are also great leaders, but leadership isn’t natural to everyone and especially not natural in youngsters.
When Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois made their debuts at Chelsea, they had the most natural leader of all time in John Terry in front of them. This would’ve made their lives 1000% easier.
Let’s not forget, Kepa’s playing in-front of the worst defence of Roman Abramovich’s ownership. If someone was back there marshalling the defence and making sure players aren’t letting players run off them, a la Newcastle’s winner, life would be that little bit easier for the goalkeeper.
It’s a really bad stat for a goalkeeper of a top club because generally they don’t face that many shots. So of course when they do concede one (or two) it has a dramatic impact on that percentage.
In the game against Newcastle, Chelsea had 4 shots on target from their 19 shots. Dubravka finishes the game with a 100% save ratio.
Newcastle managed two shots on target from their seven shots and Kepa walks away with a 50% save ratio.
It’s why a long list of England goalkeepers, Rob Green, Paul Robinson and Scott Carson, to name just a few, got their call ups to the national team and then made silly mistakes.
They were used to facing onslaught after onslaught for 90 minutes at club level. Then come into the national team and have to stand around for 90 minutes before being called into action.
The difference between a good shot stopper and top level goalkeeper is absolutely massive.
Class is permanent form is temporary
Kepa didn’t become a bad goalkeeper over night, he’s just in a bit of poor form. Last season his distribution was excellent, thanks to coaching, this season it’s been questionable at times. Do we need a new goalkeeper or a new goalkeeping coach?
Yes, a couple of goals you want him to do better, but some he could do absolutely nothing about, like Héctor Bellerin’s equaliser for Arsenal.
If you want these goals stopped, you need to question the defending not the goalkeeping.
Kepa’s a young(ish) goalkeeper with fantastic potential, if coached correctly. The fact he cost £72m is irrelevant because of the circumstances that lead us to paying it.
If we’re serious about having a transition, and allowing our youngsters time to develop while they play, then the same applies to Kepa.
He might not be at Cech’s or even Courtois’ level but we wasn’t buying a ready made goalkeeper at their level to begin with.
All we’ve got to do is Kepa calm and carry on.
He’ll come good again.
Keep the faith.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu