Kepa was an out of the blue buy when Thibaut Courtois went AWOL and left the Blues with no other choice. Statistically, he was not the clear standout in any category and time has more or less shown just that. Yet Chelsea kept the faith to splash the £71.6m that saw him became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.
A premise that has seen him come under much scrutiny lately. The 25-year-old has had an increasingly rough go of it at Chelsea in recent weeks. He is not a lost cause, but some change is needed. Very quickly as well.
For every concern about a goal conceded or a save missed, equal consideration needs to be given to the situation a defence leaves a keeper in. Furthermore, goalkeepers on good teams are almost always destined to be statistically “worse” than their counterparts on lower quality teams simply because they do not get tested as much.
Those cannot be excuses forever and Kepa’s benefit of the doubt is eroding. He is tied last for punches and has the fifth most goals conceded in the Premier League. He also ranks at the very bottom for saves made and sits in the middle of the league for high claims. Whatever excuses can be made for him can still be made, but on the same note, he is not really quieting noise around him either.
Thanks to VAR and an uncharacteristic miss from Sergio Aguero, Kepa got away with two sloppy moments in goal against Manchester City in Chelsea’s recent 2-1 Premier League defeat.
The 25-year-old was also arguably at fault in some part for the first three goals at Stamford Bridge as Ajax drew 4-4 with Chelsea in a key Champions League clash.
More recently, Kepa turned from hero to villain real quick after he became the subject of a “weird” goal against Valencia on Wednesday night.
The Blues were leading 2-1 before Daniel Wass’ cross-like-shot sailed over the head of the Spanish shot-stopper and into the back of the net off the post. That goal saw Chelsea drop two points and puts the Blues in an uncertain position for Champions League qualification.
Frank Lampard was quick to defend his goalkeeper but the reality remains that he simply can do better.
“The cross came in too high for him. I know there might be the feeling he pulled his hands away, I’m not sure he would have got there anyway. As per Football.London.
“I will have to look at it again and Kepa will be the best one because he’s very honest with himself and if he feels he could have got it then I’m sure he would say that.
If Kepa is truly being honest with himself, then truly he could have done way better. One mistake every now and then is normal, but when it becomes a regular occurrence – It translates to a problem.
As per AllFootball, the expected goals (xG) against Kepa last season was 37.14 in total and he conceded 39 goals in his 36 games played. That’s worse this season as the xG against him is calculated at 11.92 but he has conceded 17 times in the league.
All these point to a sense of under-performing highlighted by his many mistakes in recent weeks.
In his defence, Kepa did lose David Luiz to Arsenal and Antonio Rudiger to injury for most of the season which has led to a less experienced backline in front of him.
However, the data makes for uncomfortable reading on Kepa, who will need to improve with a seven-year £190,000-a-week deal meaning that Chelsea have little choice but to persist with him for the time being.
Despite everything, Kepa is only 25, which for an outfielder would be approaching their prime years but for a keeper is quite early.
Certain traits, such as reflexes, show early in a keeper’s career. The likes of decision making, physical abilities, and technique? Those come later. Keepers develop slower overall and tend to keep those skills for longer than an outfielder.
Thus, Arrizabalaga is nowhere close to his prime years and can still be molded. The question is if Chelsea have that much room for error till he becomes a stable goalkeeper option.
Chelsea paid a lot to bring Kepa in, even if they had no other choice. Other choices are out there and could improve the Blues right away, but it is too early to give up on the Spaniard just yet. The simple fact remains that if he doesn’t become reliable soon enough, It could be a matter of time before talk of his replacement becomes a reality.