After a brief respite — which was brief in terms of number of games but really wasn’t that brief thanks to the three-month coronavirus delay — the critics are coming back out for Kepa Arrizabalaga, who once again managed to concede a goal on every shot-on-target in a game.
On Wednesday, West Ham scored three goals from three shots-on-target and while Kepa wasn’t immediately at fault for any of them, his weak aerial play was a key factor in at least one them, and it certainly wouldn’t have hurt to come up with a big save or two as well. Rightly or not, when you pay the most for something, you want the most (or best) in return. It’s not unreasonable to expect the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to do something jaw-dropping (-ly good, not bad or weird) every once in a while.
Using that price tag against Kepa may be unfair, it wasn’t his choice, but it’s something he’s had to deal with since arriving at Chelsea. And for most of his first season here, it was not mentioned often. But his levels have dropped this season — he continues to bring up the bottom of the table for most goalkeeping statistics, including save percentage and post-shot xG — and Chelsea are reportedly exploring options for pulling the plug on the project two years into a seven-year contract.
That of course won’t be easy given the financials (and the performances) involved. We just might have to stay the course and hope that Kepa improves and develops. Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with 25-year-old’s attitude and willingness to get better. That may not guarantee future success, but it’s a good first step.
“I’m fortunate enough to look beyond any price that was paid and try to improve my value by working hard, training hard and becoming a better goalkeeper, as well as a better person. The price is not something that worries me or weighs heavy on my mind.”
“Personally, on and off the field, I’m an ambitious person, both in football and away from the game. The key is working hard to become a better goalkeeper, and that’s what I focus on, rather than anything else that might influence me.”
Kepa of course isn’t the only player in need of some improvement, and he’s arguably not even the weakest point of the team. Chelsea’s inconsistencies run well beyond just goalkeeping and improvement (and development) will be required across the board if we are to truly challenge for the top of the table.
“From the team’s point of view, we’ve had some good moments as a group, and some when things haven’t gone as well as we’ve hoped. If we managed to be more consistent as a group and carry on in that same vein of form that we’ve shown in a decent amount of games, we might be a little bit higher up that table.
“From a personal point of view, it’s the same as ever: working hard in training to bring what I can to the team and giving my best to help the lads out.”
Some of that development and improvement process can be accelerated by the injection of fresh talent, which Chelsea are already doing. For Kepa that just shows the ambition of the team is high, just like his own.
“The group of players we have in that dressing room and that squad is of a very high standard. On paper, we’ve got a stunning group of players. The arrival of the two new lads, Werner and Ziyech, they’ve shown they’ve got great stats and they can put in some great performances.
“Next season does look very promising. Let’s hope they can help us to improve on what we’ve done this season. Hopefully they will improve our squad and improve our team. Together, as a group, we can work hard and achieve the targets we’ll be setting ourselves next season, which will be high targets.”
-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: talkSport
Aim high, aim true. So say we all.