Frank Lampard has had an interesting start to his Chelsea managerial career so far. From a striking perspective, the Blues have looked sharp and innovative enough with Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham leading the show but the same fortunes cannot be said for the Chelsea defence. Defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Kurt Zouma have faced most of the criticism for Chelsea’s leaky defence but what has been going on with Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal?
Chelsea might have won with a resounding 5-2 scoreline against Wolves over the weekend but a dark shadow over the win was evident with Chelsea conceding twice when 4-0 up to add unnecessary pressure to the closing stages of the game. It pretty much compounded the Blue’s defensive struggles so far.
As per Premier League, Chelsea have the second-worst defence in the Premier League this season, conceding 11 goals in five games with only Norwich City conceding more (12).
As earlier said, defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Kurt Zouma have shouldered most of the blame (rightly so) but an eagle eye should now be placed on Kepa Arrizabalaga and his responsibilities as well. After all, he’s the world’s most expensive goalkeeper for a reason.
A stellar contrast in Kepa’s debut season in the Premier League and the downgrade in his current form shows how bad the Spaniard has declined under Lampard’s short tenure so far.
Bright debut campaign
After arriving from Athletic Bilbao last season to replace Thibaut Courtois for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper, Arrizabalaga had a decent first campaign in England.
In the Premier League he conceded 39 goals and kept 14 clean sheets, helping Chelsea to finish the campaign with the third-best defence in the division (via Premier League).
Only top two Manchester City and Liverpool conceded fewer goals than the Blues last season. Not surprisingly, the same pair as above were the only goalkeepers to have kept more clean sheets than the Blues shot-stopper last term.
On a personal level, the Spaniard 82 saves from the 331 shots he faced in the Premier League, 121 of which were on target, with a save percentage of 67.77%.
The Spaniard also proved himself to be a capable goalkeeper in penalty situations, saving four across three shootouts including two en route to winning the Europa League, as well as one of the two he faced in the Premier League.
Bar the comedy moment where he briefly became the Chelsea boss after refusing to come off while former boss Sarri was at the helm, his first season in goal for the Blues was definitely one with promise – one that showed the potential to justify his £75m world-record fee.
His impressive performances did not go unnoticed as he staked his claim to become a genuine contender to replace David de Gea as Spain’s number one goalkeeper.
But since the turn of the new season, Arrizabalaga has had a season to forget under Lampard so far.
Kepa’s poor form under Lampard
As previously mentioned, Chelsea boast the second-worst defence in the Premier League this season and that was only thanks to Rodri’s late consolation goal for Manchester City in their 3-2 defeat to Norwich City, otherwise Lampard’s men would have been bottom of the pile.
While Azpilicueta and Zouma are the main targets for the criticism, Arrizabalaga must hold his hands up for failing to be the last line of defence.
The Spaniard is one of just five goalkeepers yet to officially register a clean sheet this season, joining Norwich City’s Tim Krul, Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale, Watford’s Ben Foster and Alisson of Liverpool – though the latter only makes the list for the obvious reason that he went off injured in the Premier League opener.
As per Squawka, Chelsea have faced 50 shots in total so far, 21 of which have arrived on target so far this season, Arrizabalaga has made just 11 saves, with a percentage of 47.62%. In the Premier League, only Rui Patricio (47.37%) has a worse save percentage, having saved nine of the 19 shots on target he has faced.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has a save percentage of 47.62% across Premier League this season having saved 11 of the 21 shots on target he has faced.
Only Rui Patricio (47.37%) has a worse save percentage, having saved nine of the 19 shots on target he has faced. pic.twitter.com/EnTtK7BYHO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 16, 2019
That about suggests that with Kepa in goal so far, the probability of a ball breezing past him after leaving any striker’s boots is more positive than negative. Not impressive for a player of his worth and status.
A closer look at his number of saves made so far makes it more worrying. With only 11 saves in five games, a fair projection towards the end of the season will mean his numbers might hinge around 77-79 saves (a decline from last season) and it gets more interesting to note that Lampard and his men have faced only one member from the top six so far – and we know what that 4-0 scoreline to the Red Devils has impacted to Kepa and Chelsea’s defensive statistics as it stands.
So with more games to come against clinical strikers and players from the big six, Kepa’s numbers are even under more threat of getting worse. It’s no surprise he hasn’t had a clean sheet this season. Right?
Talking about making a change, the Blues face Liverpool next in the Premier League and even a Chelsea fan would say the chances of a Kepa clean sheet in the game are at negative odds right now – especially with Zouma being Zouma and Azpilicueta being generous and getting dispossessed all the time.
Friendly reminder the latter has hit way more than double figures for being dispossessed in one game alone this season.
César Azpilicueta gave away possession 20 times against Sheffield United, at least three times more than any other player on the pitch.
He didn't cover himself in glory for the goals either. 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/3Dykpd1ppR
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2019
Back to the earlier narrative, Lampard must now be wary of a weak link in his squad that has only been spared blushes as a result of greater incompetence from members of the back line. Yes, Kepa has a deputy in Willy Caballero but that doesn’t sound assuring as well for a side and a manager with dreams of doing big things in the Champions League in particular.
While it has not been talked about recently, someone has to spill out the hard truth which simply exposes the fact that if Kepa doesn’t improve his poor performances in goal, Lampard must look to get an able reinforcement in January (if their transfer window is lifted).
If not, the Blues boss faces the prospect of watching Chelsea’s attacking and defensive department compete for who “lets in” the most goals. Surprisingly Chelsea have scored 11 goals so far and have conceded the same number as well. If improvements at the back are not made, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
For a goalkeeper worth £75m (Transfermarkt), Kepa should be better and must improve quickly.