It was only a few days ago that Kepa Arrizabalaga went from another promising youngster at Athletic Bilbao to the world’s most expensive goalkeeper at €80 million. That kind of pressure can get to people much older than the 23-year-old, and yet, in both words and actions, it’s not something that appears to affect him at all.
On Saturday, in the 3-0 win against Huddersfield, he wasn’t greatly tested, but most agree that whatever tests he was presented with, he passed with flying colors. His distribution was generally smart and accurate, his involvement in the passing game was useful and safe, and his sweeping up behind the high line was well-timed and crucial. Those are the sorts of qualities goalkeepers need in spades these days, so while on a few occasions the command of his area and especially his aerial presence were not quite as strong as what we had been used to from Thibaut Courtois, that did not matter in the end. He will also likely get used to and improve in those departments, much like his compatriot David De Gea has done over the years. (His early struggles in that department are fairly famous, in fact.)
Center back Antonio Rüdiger highlighted another area where Kepa impressed, communication. Communication is key, whether in life or on the football pitch.
“He did well. He tried to speak as much as he could. It was good, we have a good understanding and he is a quality player. He did well with [communication]. When we needed to help him, we helped him. Today in general for us was a very good day.”
Another positive: confidence, something that’s required from all goalkeepers.
“I wish [Courtois] good luck at Real Madrid but now we have to concentrate on Kepa because he is our goalkeeper. In his work he is very confident and off the pitch he is a quiet guy.”
So far so good then, even if Chelsea’s first Premier League game under Maurizio Sarri was not perfect. The coach himself made clear that improvement is needed, and this will be the theme for at least the first few months.
Still, it was a much better showing than for most of preseason. Chelsea in fact scored as many goals in this one match than the five preseason matches combined! The second half was especially promising, when our passing and play happened at a much higher tempo than in the first.
“We are happy because our pre-season games were not that good. Today we can be happy that we won the game – three goals and a clean sheet for us. It’s not always easy to adapt because it’s a new style of play, but I think that we moved the ball well.”
“I think you say the players become more comfortable today. It’s all about working on it in training and improving.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; Source: Goal
Onwards and upwards!