Rating Kepa Arrizabalaga’s Start at Chelsea
The man in question here is the world’s most expensive keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga. Moving from Athletic Bilbao for a world record fee of £71.6 million, he is a young, talented goalkeeper who was the man deemed worthy of replacing want away Thibaut Courtois.
Many wondered whether the player was worth the price tag, with it being extremely high for the young goalkeeper who was relatively inexperienced and had never featured in European football. Especially since the slightly cheaper and more experienced alternative had chosen Liverpool; Alisson being perceived as the better transfer. How do we rate the Spaniard’s start, though?
Could the Price Tag Weigh Him Down
Anytime a player goes for a world record fee for their position, the hype and pressure are turned up to 11. Anyone that heralds a transfer fee of that size and magnitude needs to perform from the first time they step onto the pitch. However, it’s no secret that the recent years have seen transfer fees rise.
Liverpool had previously broken the goalkeeper record signing Alisson Becker for £65 million only three weeks before. Prior to that, Gianluigi Buffon was the record holder, signing for Juventus for £33 million back in 2001.
Transfer prices have risen exponentially, meaning the signing of Kepa is a high profile one. Signing a seven-year contract means he could be at the club until 2025; Chelsea looked to have secured a young talent for the long-term future but for that price he has to perform in the present.
How has he fared so far?
What Has He Shown So Far?
Tasked with being the new number one for Chelsea, in the biggest league in the world, he would have been extremely nervous and excited to begin his career in England. Of course, any mistake he makes would be amplified and analysed by pundits and fans alike.
However, so far, you could say he’s settled in very quickly to English football as well as European football. He has 13 clean sheets overall in 25 games, with eight of those coming in the Premier League.
His distribution has been magnificent and his technical ability has seen him take on Sarri’s style of play almost instantly. He has had more passes completed and more long passes completed than rival keepers, Alisson and Ederson, in the league this season. His overall save style is highly athletic and dynamic as you would expect from a young, agile keeper.
He began with a clean sheet in a 3-0 win away at Huddersfield Town, having little to do. However, he has been involved with many good saves, though a few have slipped by him.
For instance, the game against Arsenal saw him concede two goals with the first a good strike from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but pundits were critical of the young ‘keeper, who perhaps struggled with the power of the shot.
While that was maybe a bit harsh, he did let a shot go under him against Wolves with the game at 1-0 to Chelsea. This is probably his only true mistake so far, which shows how good his personal performances have been.
With a good start under his belt, Kepa Arrizabalaga already knows how tough the Premier League is as Chelsea have slipped from title challengers to top four challengers. Focusing on his own performances, he has to strive to improve in this team.
David De Gea was heavily criticised in his early tenure as Manchester United’s keeper for being too skinny and too weak for the position. He came through the criticism and rose to be one of the best keepers in the world. There is no telling if he will become one but his potential is extremely high.
He already has the ball distribution at a world-class level but he has to continue to make saves like he has done and at important times, such as the low save from Sadio Mane against Liverpool, the athletic saves from Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings against Southampton and the close-range efforts from Calum Chambers and Michail Antonio stand out as highlights so far.
With a seven-year contract, Chelsea fans will hope Kepa Arrizabalaga reaches his potential.