Kepa Arrizabalaga is the perfect example of a panic buy. Chelsea were left with a vastly important decision to make following the unpleasant departure of Thibaut Courtois. A replacement had to be signed, and it had to be done fast.
Then came the announcement that Chelsea had signed Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. For many, this came as a shock, as Kepa wasn’t entirely known as a stand out keeper, and many saw the move as a downgrade to Courtois. As well as varied opinions on the player himself, the price tag raised many concerns as to whether this deal was the best for the club.
£72million for a 24-year-old goalkeeper who was yet to prove himself entirely at his former club was nothing short of outrageous from Chelsea. The move showed next to no ambition and was seen as a huge stab in the dark. However, there must have been certain things that attracted Chelsea toward the Spaniard, right?
Kepa’s time at Athletic Bilbao:
Well, to go off stats alone, Kepa produced far from attractive numbers to trigger a move from Chelsea for the Spaniard. In 53 games, Kepa managed 15 clean sheets. During his first season in the BBVA, he made on average, 1.7 saves per 90 minutes, which isn’t an admirable statistic. He improved slightly in his second season, with an average of 3.2 saves per 90 minutes. (Stats from whoscored.com and footystats.org)
The stats reinforce the idea that Chelsea panicked when Courtois exited and didn’t do enough homework when searching for a replacement. A signing was certainly required, but you would expect better recruitment from a club with Chelsea’s stature. The price tag doesn’t help at all, either. Had Chelsea picked Kepa up for sub £30million, it would arguably not have been as big of a flop as it actually was, but for £72million, you expect a world class talent, and Kepa just isn’t that.
Where could he go?:
Kepa’s time in the Premier League has ultimately been a dissapointment. The Spaniard failed to live up to the hype, and now finds himself in a difficult position. A move away from Stamford Bridge is the only way he can revive his career. So where would he go?
At the age of 26, Kepa still has a lot to prove. A move back to Spain could be a positive option for him, as the game is completely different to English football. Premier League football has an extremely high intensity, and defenders rely heavily on passing back to the keeper. This has never been good for Kepa, as his distribution is very poor. In Spain, the game is played at a slower pace, which would benefit Kepa’s overall performance, giving him more time to prepare for shots, and also takes the pressure off when he recieves the ball.
Kepa has proved that he is a decent shot stopper, with important saves including THAT penalty save against Frankfurt, the wonder save against Watford, and the incredible double save in the Super Cup against Liverpool. That being said, he has let Chelsea down on countless occasions, thus leading to a depleting confidence, which may improve with a move back to his native country.
Chelsea’s current standpoint:
Chelsea have made it pretty clear that Kepa has no future at the club. The arrival of Edouard Mendy made that very clear, as Mendy has impressed immensely since moving to the SW6. The Blues have also been heavily linked with AC Milan superstar Gianluigi Donnarumma, which would potentially leave Kepa as Chelsea’s third choice. It is also unlikely that Chelsea would continue to pay the high wages of Kepa, meaning his career in London is very much over.
Kepa could very well revive his career with a move back to Spain, much like Courtois did following a rough patch in his Chelsea career. Courtois is now recognised as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and Kepa could be the same. Only time will tell what happens with the Spaniard, but it is all but confirmed that his Chelsea career is coming to an end.
Written by @mashgreaves