Goalkeeping is a hot and sensitive topic at Chelsea these days, but while many are calling for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s head, and recent media speculation expects a summertime reassessment of where we stand with the club’s record signing — as one would expect of any player at any position, but here’s the Telegraph’s take and here’s Goal’s on how Kepa has “four months to convince” — we might have to make some goalkeeper moves regardless of what happens with Kepa.
Veteran backup Willy Caballero’s contract is up at the end of the season, and unlike the previous two years, he’s apparently not expected to re-sign anymore. So we’ll need at least a new backup, and Madrid-based Diario AS figure that a perfect candidate for that job is already in London, just on the other side of it. Usually it’s Wilfried Zaha who gets linked to Chelsea from Crystal Palace, but this time it’s their goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita.
The 33-year-old late bloomer has been one of Palace’s best players this season, but his contract has just 18 months left on it, and it would seem that both Chelsea and Manchester City are willing to pay good money. (Though the report does not guess at a price just yet.)
Guaita does come with the recommendation of the one and only Christophe Lollichon, unlike Kepa, with the Chelsea goalkeeper coach/scout/advisor apparently paving the way for Guaita to not only replace Caballero this summer, but provide a strong challenge to Kepa. Lollichon, who recommended PSG’s Alphonse Areola instead of Kepa two years ago, might find an extra set of sympathetic ears these days among the hierarchy, with his former protégé Petr Čech now the club’s technical
director advisor. (Areola himself is on loan at Real Madrid for the season where he’s not playing much at all; his future is far from settled, but let’s not digress.)
⚽ El Chelsea pregunta por Guaita— Diario AS (@diarioas) January 24, 2020
El portero español, que brilla en el Crystal Palace, acaba contrato en 2021
Lampard ha pensado en él como alternativa de garantías de Kepa
También le sigue el Cityhttps://t.co/OLSjbnICzR
On the stat sheets — can’t talk goalkeepers without post-shot xG (PSxG), right? — Guaita has kept 6 clean sheets (1 more than Kepa) in 22 games and has let in 24 goals (32 goals conceded for Kepa, having played 2 more games). Guaita is third best in the league in shot-stopping percentage with 73% (only behind Alisson and Dean Henderson) — Kepa’s the worst at 53.6% — and also third best in PSxG+/- with (+6.4), that is he has conceded 6 fewer goals than expected — Kepa’s near the bottom in this regard as well with (-4.2), so in theory, Guaita could represent a swing of almost 10 goals, though that’s a drastic oversimplification.
While stats never tell the whole story, Guaita certainly looks better in this regard than the other name linked with Chelsea so far, Nick Pope.
Regardless of whether we get Guaita or not, one thing is certain: Kepa’s position as an undisputed starter might not last into next season.
With the enormous transfer fee that the club paid for his services, it was always likely that Kepa’s performances would be under the spotlight. While it was known that Kepa was not the greatest shot-stopper in the world, his distribution was highly-regarded and was also pivotal in Maurizio Sarri’s system, just as it’s been to Lampard’s, who also places high value on passing out from the back — in fact, Kepa’s second only to Manchester City’s Ederson in shortest average passing distance. With both of those teams reportedly after Guaita, he presumably can also do such things, though right now he’s launching nearly 90% of his goal kicks beyond 40 yards.
While getting a new No.1 goalkeeper seems easy in theory, it would be much more difficult, even in theory, to actually offload Kepa because of the transfer fees and wages involved. An alternative solution to acquire a better deputy just might be the ticket.