Just two years ago, Kepa Arrizabalaga became the most expensive goalkeeper in football history after Chelsea forked out more than seventy million pounds for his services.
His arrival at Stamford Bridge was met with great excitement from the fans as Arrizabalaga had been one of the best keepers in La Liga playing for his native club Athletic Bilbao.
Unfortunately, the Spaniard never really settled in London and after a string of high-profile errors since the start of his Chelsea career, he is now looking closer than ever to losing his starting berth for good.
Frank Lampard began his tenure as head coach for the Blues with the idea to give Kepa a fair chance to asset himself and there were definitely some bright performances along the way, however, the period was marred by a ton of avoidable and silly mistakes by the keeper.
This prompted Lampard to twice install back-up option Willy Caballero in the starting lineup and even-handed the veteran Argentine the chance to play in the FA Cup Final last season.
Kepa was reinstated as the club’s first choice for the start of the new campaign but has had a nightmare so far.
His slow reaction gifted Brighton a goal in Chelsea’s opening fixture and while it wasn’t fatal, his next mistake against Liverpool proved quite costly.
Kepa failed to clear the ball which gave Sadio Mane the chance to score and seal the points for the Reds.
Despite Lampard being gracious in his criticisms so far, it is evident that he has made up his mind about Kepa and a replacement’s arrival looks to be imminent.
Who Has Chelsea Lined Up to Replace Kepa?
The club looks to be on the verge of signing Edouard Mendy from Rennes. The 28-year-old Senegalese had a brilliant season with the French outfit helping them clinch Champions League qualification.
Mendy is tall, strong, and quite agile for his height. He commands the box well and is the sort of keeper who keeps his defenders calm and composed.
Given that he doesn’t have a lot of experience at the top, it will probably take him a bit of time to settle into the rhythm of the Premier League, however, Mendy has every chance to be a hit at Stamford Bridge.
He might not be a long-term solution but an experienced and cheap option that looks assured between the sticks is exactly what Chelsea needs at the moment.
What Does It Mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga?
Even if the club signs Mendy, I do believe that Kepa will get a few more chances this season.
His confidence looks to have completely disappeared, however, given how much money the club spent for his services, I find it hard to believe that we won’t be seeing him in the blue kit anymore.
That being said, his downward spiral has continued for so long that given the current mental state that Kepa is in, I don’t think he will be able to compete with Mendy either.
Last season saw him lose his place twice to 38-year-old Willy Caballero who has never been an elite keeper but proved to be a very decent option when compared to Arrizabalaga.
I also believe Kepa has lost the faith of his Chelsea teammates and as much as Lampard wants to stress how supportive he is of every player, it is quite obvious that the keeper’s days with the club are numbered.
The Spaniard recently said in an interview that he would like to emulate what his fellow countryman David de Gea has achieved in the Premier League.
And everyone who has been following Manchester United in the past few years will know that De Gea himself went through a very rough patch.
But this came after several years of terrific performances which made the United stopper one of the most important players on the pitch for his team.
Kepa doesn’t hold such a pedigree so even if it’s certain that Chelsea will not make a profit from their investment, they may well fast-track his exit especially if Edouard Mendy proves to be a steady option.
I still believe Arrizabalaga has the talent to be one of the best goalkeepers in Europe but his chapter in the Premier League hasn’t worked out for him.
I’m certain he has not yet given up on turning things around but at this point, the wiser option may be to return to a more familiar culture.
And we might soon have the chance to witness it happening.