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Let’s blame Kepa!


Newcastle United v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The ball probably didn’t even finish squirming past timidly rooted Kepa Arrizabalaga’s floppy, al dente wrists before the verdict was in. Another notch in the belt of the Premier League’s worst goalkeeper, right?

But if you’re blaming Kepa for the loss, you’re ignoring not only the terrible defending (collective and individual) but more importantly, the nearly 100 minutes of football — 90 minutes plus about 9 minutes of combined stoppage time — that preceded it.

Sure, let’s say he “should” have saved it. So he cost us 1 point. But it’s 3 points that we “should” have won. We were heading for a scoreless draw, lest we forget. That was already a massive joke. Kepa just delivered the final punchline.

Chelsea lost at St James’ Park tonight, just as we have four of the previous six times we were there.

The instant reaction is always to look for someone to blame. The goalkeeping “statistics” — let’s call them statistics to make their creators happy — that have been making the rounds have already primed Kepa as the primary scapegoat for any bad result.

But you already know that the problems are far, far deeper than the man who is the last line of defense. They’re just not as easy to quantify, qualify, shout into the night sky.

Here’s one of the more obvious ones that doesn’t involve leaving gaping holes in midfield and defense, with at least three free headers given up just today.

Chelsea had 19 shots, 10 corners, 70 per cent possession. We had maybe one actual good chance. Maybe. Abraham almost managed to smuggle a shot over the line, but like his other barely-chance where he stepped around the goalkeeper at a very tight angle, luck was not on his side. The chance that forced the goal-line clearance was the only shot on target from Chelsea’s attacking players.

At some point in the second-half, the classic “you get the sense that one moment of quality” line made an appearance. Unfortunately for us, Eden Hazard is long gone. So where was that moment of quality going to come from? Willian? Not today. Hudson-Odoi? Not yet. Mount? Barkley? Jorginho? Nope, nope, nope. Wing-backs not named Reece James? His possible injury is the worst thing from this game, and that’s saying something. Kanté? Not this twin. Michy came closer to gifting a chance to Newcastle than getting his head to the one bit of great service he did get.

The team’s problems run much deeper than the goalkeeper who isn’t the world’s best. They will take more than one transfer window, more than one season of youth revolution to fix. They will take a lot of work, a lot of belief, a lot of patience — from all involved.

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