Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has turned his career around at Stamford Bridge following Graham Potter’s appointment as Thomas Tuchel’s successor. The Spanish shot-stopper signed for the Blues after completing a £71million transfer from Athletic Bilbao, a deal which remains as the world record fee paid for a goalkeeper.
After helping Chelsea win the Europa League in his debut season, Kepa struggled to maintain his form and soon lost his position as No.1 ‘keeper under Frank Lampard, being replaced by veteran goalkeeper Willy Caballero. The Spaniard has struggled throughout his time in west London but now looks to have turned his fortunes around as he continues to impress under Potter.
Edouard Mendy was brought in to replace Kepa as the starting goalkeeper in 2020, but the Senegalese shot-stopper has failed to regain his place in the starting lineup after struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks. Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League clash against RB Salzburg, Blues icon Joe Cole has praised Kepa for showing ‘resilience’ to regain his starting spot in the team. Speaking on BT Sport’s coverage of the game, Cole said:
“We said the manager deserves credit, he deserves credit, he’s showed resilience. “You have to remember this is Chelsea’s record signing, the next Cech, the next Courtois and it didn’t work for him. He’s come out of the team, he was actively open to leaving the club but he’s knuckled down and he’s the perfect example for young goalkeepers and players that you can rebuild yourself. “When your goalkeeper is making saves like that it gives you belief, you don’t want your goalkeeper to be making mistakes but you know when it goes wrong he’s going to be wrong. That’s what they’re there for and he’s been fantastic.”
Fellow pundit Glenn Hoddle agreed with Cole in his assessment of Kepa and lauded the Spaniard’s ‘mental strength’ after taking his chance under Potter. Hoddle said:
“He’s shown such fantastic mental strength, he’s had to be patient, been given his chance and he’s taken it with both hands excuse the pun. “There will come a time when he makes a mistake and it ends up in the back of the net – that is when he’s going to have his major, major test. That will be the one we’re waiting for, not that we’re waiting for it to happen but goalkeeper’s make mistakes but that’s when we’ll see a strength of mind – which we’ve seen already – it’s incredible.”
Kepa has played the last five games under Potter, conceding just three goals and keeping three clean sheets. It looks as though the Spaniard is Potter’s favoured choice in goal leaving Mendy with an uphill battle to regain his place as Chelsea’s No.1.