Chelsea backup goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero may not have had to make any actual saves in order to win and keep a clean sheet against Spurs on Wednesday — he did make one excellent stop on a play that was flagged offside — but he’s come out looking the strongest out of anybody involved in the Kepa “incident” (“mutiny”, “insubordination”, “misunderstanding”, call it what you will) over the past week.
While Kepa, Sarri, and Chelsea overall (players, coaches, staff) have handled things as well as possible since last Sunday, plenty of questions can be asked about their behaviors and actions (and inactions) at the time. Kepa was right in a sense, but his conduct wasn’t. Sarri was right, too, but was making decisions without all the facts getting communicated to him by his staff or the other players, and so on and so forth. But Caballero has led the way in saying all the right things in the aftermath, and more convincingly than just spouting the PR line of a “big misunderstanding”.
As it turns out, according to Matt Law’s latest dispatch from his Chelsea beat, the club were already “hoping” to offer the 37-year-old a new contract for next season before these events. Now, he’s been upgraded to being “in line” for the standard one-year extension as Chelsea look to ensure his veteran leadership and presence remains at the club for the third season in a row.
The reason this isn’t a set plan yet is due to the club’s homegrown situation — not so much about a “quota” as Law says (because there isn’t a homegrown quota to fill, per se), but rather about using the 17 non-homegrown spots in the best way possible.
For most years since the introduction of these rules in 2010, Chelsea had filled the role of backup goalkeeper with a homegrown player behind Petr Čech and Thibaut Courtois (most notably Ross Turnbull and Asmir Begović) but with Caballero backing up Courtois and then Arrizabalaga, 2 of those 17 spots had been used for goalkeepers instead in recent years. With Chelsea’s homegrown contingent shrinking precipitously this year — only Barkley, Christensen, and Loftus-Cheek are set to be here next season (Fabregas, Moses, Cahill, Drinkwater all gone or set to leave) — the need to utilize that non-homegrown allocation smartly becomes much more imperative. The other solution is to sign new homegrown (association-trained, as UEFA call them) or utilize (HA!) our own homegrown (club-trained, which is a distinction UEFA make) talent better, of course.
Either way, using two non-homegrown spots for goalkeepers may be a luxury we cannot afford regardless of how much veteran leadership Caballero might provide...