Why Chelsea Need to Keep Faith in Kepa Arrizabalaga Despite Poor Season

Kepa Arrizabalaga
Kepa Arrizabalaga's place is under pressure at Chelsea | Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Kepa Arrizabalaga is under a lot of pressure.

Not only does the weight of being Chelsea's starting goalkeeper come with a lot of expectation but being the world's most expensive shot stopper automatically leaves people expecting you to be... well, the best in the world.

For Kepa, that pressure has been too much to handle this season. His performances have generally been nowhere near good enough, and that's got people suggesting that the Spaniard's time at Stamford Bridge could be up already.

Recently, we had The Telegraph note that Kepa needs a 'strong finish' to the season to convince Frank Lampard not to replace him.

Frustration with Kepa's performances is easily justifiable, but to try and replace him now seems more than a little hasty.

Since joining Chelsea from Athletic Club for a record £71m, Kepa has divided opinion. His debut season was fairly impressive, but this year has seen his form fall off a cliff. Several of his performances wouldn't look out of place at Sunday League level.

When deciding on Kepa's future, you have to think about whether these poor performances are a dip in form or simply the level that the goalkeeper is at these days.

Kepa Arrizabalaga
Kepa's errors have left Chelsea in the lurch too often this year | Robin Jones/Getty Images

Many will jump the gun and assume it's the latter, but Kepa has shown fans more than enough to prove why he deserves time to get himself out of this rut. His mistakes may have cost Chelsea points this year, but during his two-year tenure at the Bridge, he's also won Chelsea plenty of games.

There was; a save to deny Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrović in March 2019, a spectacular double save against Liverpool in the Super Cup final, stopping Dani Parejo's penalty in November and denying Troy Deeney in May.

They are just four examples of Kepa's elite goalkeeping.

It's obvious that his talent is in there, it's just a question of bringing it out more often.

When discussing Kepa, it's impossible not to mention Manchester United's David de Gea. The pair are two Spaniards who are battling for superiority in the national team, and their careers have followed similar trajectories at club level.

David De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga
Kepa's career has been similar to David de Gea's | TF-Images/Getty Images

De Gea came to England in 2011 and stunk the place up. He was awful in his first season. He looked out of his depth and destined to be replaced almost immediately - there were actual calls to replace him with then-reserve Anders Lindegaard - but United held firm. They persisted. They kept the faith.

Their reward? An undisputed top-five goalkeeper in the world. In years gone by, you could even argue that De Gea was top of the mountain. Can you imagine if United had turned to Lindegaard instead?

While there's no guarantee that Kepa will reach that level, De Gea's story should serve as an example of what happens when you give up too soon. Chelsea know that all too well as well, having given up on Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in years gone by.

To give up on Kepa now could prove to be a costly mistake, and not just because of the future implications. It would also be an expensive task to replace him, and Chelsea have bigger priorities right now.

Around £80m has already been committed on Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. The same fee could go on Kai Havertz alone. You've then got Ben Chilwell or Nicolás Tagliafico, both of whom have been heavily linked with a move to the Bridge.

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard has more important issues to address this summer | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

That's a whole lot of money, but it needs to be done. Chelsea are noticeably weak in all those positions, and unless they spend, they won't get better.

That's where the situation differs for Kepa. Chelsea already have a goalkeeper who could become one of the best around, and he won't cost them a penny this summer.

He just needs time to prove himself.

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