Manager Frank Lampard came in and gave youngsters deserved opportunities, and when combined with an excellent transfer window, the Blues have a very promising team.
However, there remains one area of concern; one that needs to be rectified. That is, of course, the goalkeeper.
Chelsea Still Have One Position to Sort Out
Lampard Doesn’t Trust His Starting Goalkeeper
In the most important games of his season, the do-or-die league game and the cup final, Lampard selected 38-year-old Willy Caballero – a career backup – to start over Kepa Arrizablaga – the most expensive goalkeeper of all time.
After the matches, the boss played it off as a minor squad decision, but that is no minor squad decision. It’s a clear message to Kepa that he played so poorly all season that he no longer had the trust of his manager. At the very least, it’s a clear message to Kepa that he trusted Caballero more than him for those games.
It’s not like when Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the backup keeper at Barcelona in 2015, this is Caballero we’re talking about. This is the same Caballero who humiliated himself on an international scale at the 2018 World Cup for Argentina, the same goalkeeper who got benched by a man who never even played in Europe.
The fact that Lampard trusts Caballero more than his supposed starting goalkeeper, at least right now, is very concerning. Kepa truly has his work cut out if he is to win over his manager.
Chelsea Have Publicly Declared Kepa is Staying
Even with all his struggles, technical advisor and club legend Petr Cech stated his continued faith and Kepa and how they’re not giving up on him. If a man who had so much success as a goalkeeper at Chelsea says this, it’s hard to disagree.
As the best Chelsea goalkeeper of all time, there is perhaps no one more qualified to judge a fellow Chelsea keeper, so if Cech says he can fix Kepa, it becomes believable. However, there’s no denying simply how atrocious this season was, and Lampard cannot afford to be too patient as he looks to mount a title challenge.
Kepa himself is committed to proving himself to his manager and to his fans, and he will have a better defence ahead of him next season. The additions of Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell make for a much better backline, and if Antonio Rudiger can get back his form from two seasons ago, the Blues suddenly have a very solid defence.
Although, his save percentage speaks for itself. Some felt that Kepa was the scapegoat for Chelsea’s leaky back four last season. He will have no such argument this time around, and his team will expect him to deliver. But what if he doesn’t?
Solution: Sign a Better Second Keeper
Lampard gave Kepa a very poor defence to work with last season, devoid of any real leadership, as well as a gaping hole at left-back. Silva and Chilwell plug those gaps, so now he will have a real backline to protect him.
However, if he still can’t improve his performances, Chelsea need a backup option. That’s where the second keeper comes in.
Many times this season, Lampard was hesitant to drop Kepa, mostly because the next best option was Caballero, a steep dropoff in quality. If he has a better keeper on the bench this time around, the situation is very different.
Lampard afforded his keeper some slack last season, even if he did bench him on two separate occasions, perhaps more than he should’ve. With a better backup, there will be zero slack. One bad performance in training or in a game, and he drops him for the next one without a second thought.
This could actually bring the best out of both goalkeepers. Kepa will always be on his toes and will be forced to step it up or risk a long spell on the sidelines. If Lampard can realistically play the second keeper for four or five consecutive games without consequence, it’ll certainly help Chelsea’s title hopes.
Rennes’s Edouard Mendy is the most likely solution at the moment, and he seems like a reliable shot-stopped. If he can be the man to force Kepa to step up his game, and to pick up his slack when he isn’t, he’ll be exactly what Chelsea need to set them on course for a title chase.