Kepa Arrizabalaga Is at the Point of No Return at Chelsea

Tom Gott
Kepa Arrizabalaga is under real pressure at Chelsea
Kepa Arrizabalaga is under real pressure at Chelsea / Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

It's the 91st minute of Wednesday's clash between Chelsea and Liverpool. The Reds are already 5-3 up and pushing for a sixth as they prepare to take a free kick on the edge of Chelsea's penalty area.

A cross comes drifting across the six-yard box at the perfect height for a goalkeeper, but nothing happens. The ball ends up at the back post, where a stunned Virgil van Dijk is caught off guard so much that he can't keep his shot down.

And what do we hear?

Countless screams from Chelsea defenders for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to come claim the ball, but he's nowhere to be seen.

In hindsight, this wasn't fatal. Chelsea had already lost the game and it's not like Liverpool scored from it anyway, but it may well prove to be fatal to Arrizabalaga's career at Stamford Bridge. What this moment highlighted was not his inadequacies as a goalkeeper, but rather the complete lack of faith his teammates have in him.

When you can't trust your goalkeeper, it's nearly impossible to defend reliably. You're entering the game feeling as though you're at a disadvantage. Whenever a cross or a corner comes into the box, you're expecting things to go wrong.

Now, let's not blame Arrizabalaga for all of Chelsea's issues. His defenders have let him down on more than a few occasions this season - Jorginho's frailties contributed to two of Liverpool's goals on Wednesday - but there's no denying that the lack of mutual trust is putting an unnecessary strain on things.

Chelsea's defenders must take a share of the blame
Chelsea's defenders must take a share of the blame / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Are Chelsea's defenders wrong for being wary of Arrizabalaga? No. Not at all. On top of his penchant for a mistake, his poor decision-making and general shot-stopping ability have proven to be a real problem recently.

Let's analyse Liverpool's goals from Wednesday's game:

1-0: Naby Keïta's long-range drive goes over Arrizabalaga's hand and is nowhere near the corner.
2-0: Arrizabalaga simply does not attempt to keep out Trent Alexander-Arnold's free kick, although he probably wouldn't have got there anyway.
3-0: Arrizabalaga is left helpless after some poor defending from a corner, but again does not raise his arms.
4-1: Roberto Firmino's header leaves Arrizabalaga with no chance.
5-3: Arrizabalaga's weak hand fails to stop Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shot.

The thing is, this has been the pattern for the entire season. Nothing which we saw from Arrizabalaga on Wednesday came as a surprise.

Some supporters have defended Arrizabalaga all season. A dip in form, similar to that of a young David de Gea, seemed a reasonable comparison, but when does a dip become an actual level? Can a season-long struggle still be excused?

We're now at a point where fans have lost faith in him, his manager has lost faith in him and his teammates have lost faith in him. If he concedes one more goal, he will tie the record for most goals conceded by a Chelsea goalkeeper in a Premier League season - Dmitri Kharine's 48 set in the 42-game 1993/94 season. How do you come back from that?

You don't.

If Chelsea want to be competing for league titles again, they need a good, reliable goalkeeper. Look at Liverpool and Manchester City, who recognised a major weakness with Loris Karius and Claudio Bravo and spent big on Alisson and Ederson. They both went from a walking hazard to a top-tier shot stopper, and the trophies began pouring in.

The Blues cannot try and preserve their pride by sticking with him. Admitting defeat on a £71.6m world-record investment is not easy, but it's necessary. We've already seen Chelsea do so with Álvaro Morata, whose then-record £60m move was given up on after just 18 months.

Lampard has a real decision to make
Lampard has a real decision to make / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

It's tough, but it has to be done, or else Chelsea's spending this summer will all be pointless. Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and (maybe) Kai Havertz could score ten goals a game, but the Blues could still concede 11.

Something needs to change and, in this situation, there's only one change which can be made. Arrizabalaga's days at the Bridge are surely numbered.

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