Kepa Arrizabalaga- a 72 Million Pound Liability?

Chelsea twitter is awash with lingering anticipation. Waiting, ever so expectantly, for the announcement of a certain someone named Kai Havertz who has, just last week, penned a new 5-year contract with the club, with Bayer Leverkusen pocketing a hefty 80 Million Euros for their prized asset.

Yet, amid this excitement and exhilaration as blockbuster signings continue to arrive at Stamford Bridge by the day, there also lies a seething resentment. A disappointment- that Chelsea have so far been unable to get rid off massively misfiring shot-stopper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Signed with much promise before the beginning of Maurizo Sarri’s first season at the helm, Kepa had a decent, albeit unremarkable 2018/19 season. Registering 16 clean sheets in the league (3rd overall) and putting in some remarkable displays in goal, especially in the Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Chelsea fan-base warmed to their new keeper yet knew he had some crucial improvements to make if he was to be considered among the top shot-stoppers in the upcoming season. Yet 38 games, 54 goals and a paltry 9 clean-sheets later, the fans are rightfully calling for his head.

But with the build-up to a new season, Chelsea find themselves unleashing a remarkable spending spree. With significantly expensive acquisitions like Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and the soon-to-be-confirmed Kai Havertz, going in for a proven, world-class keeper is looking increasingly difficult.

Only one thing can fund Lampard’s search for a more reliable shot-stopper- the sale of his current number one. But Kepa’s exorbitant transfer fees has put Marina in a difficult spot. Literally, no other club would want a misfiring keeper like Kepa, considering the valuation Chelsea have thrown over his head, especially with many clubs still recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. And so, for one or half a season at least, Chelsea are stuck with Kepa Arrizabalaga gracing the goalposts at Stamford Bridge.

Even though moves are being made to sign a keeper who would be capable of competing for the No. 1 Role, such as Edouard Mendy, but the decision-makers, especially Petr Cech, know a crucial decision must be made next year. He has not shied away from labelling Kepa’s season a failure in recent quotes yet has backed him to still be in contention for the start of the 2020/21 season.

“Kepa struggled last season, that is unquestionable. But the club invested in him and gave him a long-term contract because they believe he has the qualities and attributes to be successful. Additions will be made to the squad, perhaps even in goal, and this is what is being discussed now. But nobody is giving up on Kepa and we all hope he has a great future”, Cech states in a recent interview with Sport.cz.

Yet, a vast majority of the fan base does not reciprocate Cech’s intentions. Widely follow Twitter fan accounts have been on Kepa’s heels since the beginning of pre-season and it seems as if there is no way back into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful for the current No.1.

But should the fans give up so easily? Yes, Kepa had an absolutely horrible time in goal last season, but why has such a deterioration occurred in the first place? Where is the promising goal-keeper who won Chelsea the semi-finals of both the Carabao Cup and Europa League, single-handedly with his block-buster penalty saves?

Where is the Kepa who pulled out an amazingly acrobatic save to help Chelsea beat Watford and ensure a top 4 finish in the 2018/19 season? As much as a player must be assessed for his performances on the field, a special focus must also be dedicated to his off-field progress.

Not only have been the rumours about a break-up possibly affecting Kepa’s mental resilience, but game after game a feeble defence has let in shots left, right and centre to pile even more pressure upon an already struggling player.

Chelsea fans must show patience, at this critical stage, to back a player who has clearly highlighted how dedicated he is to the club by putting in some huge performances over the past two seasons, being a vital cog in a fondly-remembered Europa League win.

A season competing with a reliable keeper like Mendy and a world-class defender like Thiago Silva marshalling would do a world of good for Kepa and maybe, just maybe, Cech’s hopes with the player will materialize into solid performances for Chelsea once again.

 

Written by Ahmed Hasan

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