Kepa Arrizabalaga made a surprise start on Monday for Chelsea, only his fourth in the Premier League all season and first in almost four months. And while he kept a clean sheet, just as he did a few days prior in the FA Cup against Barnsley, after the game, head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed that Édouard Mendy remains the first-choice goalkeeper, just as he has been since his arrival at the start of October.
And so, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper is set to remain the world’s most expensive backup.
That’s not exactly an ideal situation for anyone involved, though the 26-year-old has not considered leaving the club just yet, as he told radio COPE in an interview yesterday.
“I have never thought about leaving Chelsea [...] In my very good [first] season we won the Europa League, qualified for the Champions League, and I was playing for the National Team. The second year we changed coaches. With Lampard there had been no problem [though] I haven’t given my best version [and] it is true that I have not played how I wanted to play.”
Kepa was widely seen as one of the most glaring problems on the pitch last season, and someone who was literally holding back the team from getting (back) to the next level. Lampard persevered for an entire season, but eventually Chelsea took the hint, and the hit, and signed Mendy to try to shore up the position. And that has worked well to a great extent, though Chelsea’s performances eventually began to suffer again anyway (but for different reasons).
Meanwhile, Kepa personally is on pace to play fewer games than at any point in his professional career, which is not exactly a good trend as he approaches the prime of his career.
“From 0 to 10, I am 7.5 happy. Three months ago I was a little less because of the football issue. Outside of football I am well given the situation in which we’ve had to live. It’s been a complicated year, in every way. I rely on my family, on trusted people, more than ever.”
Kepa may be telling himself that he’s 75 per cent happy, but you can only sugarcoat a situation for so long. Watching the paychecks roll in may be nice, but not exactly fulfilling professionally.
“I have no problem with it [but] I want to turn it around. Start playing a bit. I want to be here, feel better and look to the future.”
“I’m not getting carried away [with the back-to-back starts] but they felt good after inactivity. I hope soon I can play more.
“What I want is to feel important at Chelsea, get back in goal and enjoy myself. In my own mid, I believe I can do it. I’m not afraid. I want to feel more important and work for it. What will happen, we’ll see.”
-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: COPE via Google Translate
Chelsea gave Kepa a seven-year contract in 2018, which means he’s not even halfway through that costly mistake. Selling him won’t be easy, though he’s certainly a capable backup if he were to stay against expectations.