Why Kepa has struggled to Justify his 72 million Price Tag
Chelsea decided to make a transfer statement by signing Kepa Arrizabalaga for a world record fee of £71.6 million. This made the young Spanish goalkeeper the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. It also broke the Chelsea transfer fee record. His signing was necessitated by the departure of Thibaut Courtois to Spanish football giant, Real Madrid. His departure forced Chelsea to go into the market for a world-class goalkeeper that will take over the position vacated by two goalkeeping greats, Courtois and Petr Cech before him.
It was believed that Kepa will be an ideal fit since he is young and promising. He was the undisputed number 1 at Athletic Bilbao. He impressed with a series of good performances. The highlight being the match against Real Madrid where he made a series of saves to shut out Madrid and preserve the score at 0 – 0 draw. He was also good with his feet completing a staggering 11.2 long balls per game. Such was his form that Athletic Bilbao tied him down to a long term contract in January 2018 with a release clause of €80 million, amid interest from Real Madrid. This was the main reason Chelsea has to pay big to secure his signature.
Since his signing for the London club, this has not been rosy for the young Spaniard. He has been highly inconsistent and has failed to live up to the hype. This has even prompted the Chelsea boss to drop him at one point of the season and favored Willy Caballero. Some issues may have affected his performance both on and off the pitch.
Chelsea leaky defence
Chelsea has been very poor defensively this season. They have conceded an alarming number of goals this season especially from set-pieces and counter-attacks. Chelsea has conceded 46 goals at this point in the season. This worse than any of the teams in the top six positions in the league. Lampard has chopped and changed personnel with little improvement in the results. He is yet to arrive at any stable central defense pairing.
Rudiger, Christensen, Zouma, and Tomori have all featured at one point or the other in the season. But none of them has exhibited the leadership quality needed to marshal the defense at the top level. A good center back should be on top of the Chelsea shopping list during the transfer. A versatile, mobile and more defensive left-back will be needed too. Both Emerson and Alonso have failed to convince. They are good in attack but very suspect defensively.
The heavy price tag
There is a pressure that comes with being a statement signing. You must raise your performance to a higher level. Otherwise, you will be the target of critics. This was exactly what Allison did when he was bought by Liverpool from Roma for £66.8m. He was temporarily the most expensive goalkeeper before Kepa was signed by Chelsea. He has since lived up to the lofty expectations and helped Liverpool to become English, European, and World champions.
The same thing cannot be said about Kepa. In the current campaign, he has only 7 clean sheets compared to Allison with 15! Allison has a save percentage of 62.5% compared to Kepa with lowly 23.3%. He is yet to prove his worth and ability on a consistent level. He must have to perform
Criticism over his quality and ability
Kepa has become the easy target of the boo boys. He is easily one of Chelsea’s most criticized players. Both fans, football analysts, and Chelsea ex-players are not sparing him. This is one of the reasons the coach decided to drop him mid-season when his form dipped dramatically to help him recover his confidence. He has even been the subject of so many transfer speculations about Chelsea’s future. Many have suggested that Chelsea will cut their losses and let him go for a lower price.
Since the restart of the current campaign after the Covid-19 forced break, he has improved a bit. But still, he has been guilty of some poor goalkeeping. He misjudged Kevin de Bruyne free-kick during a match with Manchester City allowing the ball into the net without sticking his hands out. He failed to deal with a long-range shot from Wilfred Zaha allowing the ball to pass into the net from the central position. The error against Crystal Palace during yesterday’s fixture lead to barrages of criticism from some quarters with former Chelsea legend, Ashley Cole not sparing him either.
It is however time for Kepa to shake off the early setbacks in his career at Chelsea. He needs to show the form at Athletic Bilbao that made Chelsea break the bank to land him