Ahead of Monday’s meeting with Manchester United, one of the biggest questions about Chelsea has been over who will start in goal.
Kepa Arrizabalaga turned himself into public enemy number one with a serious of costly errors and an apparent inability to make saves of late. He was deservedly dropped in favour of Willy Caballero against Leicester before the winter break, but now two weeks have passed.
Arrizabalaga has been given plenty of time to reflect on things, and he now must be reinstated to the lineup on Monday.
I know, it’s a terrifying prospect. It’s tough to have faith in Arrizabalaga these days. Almost every time fans have called on him this year, he has let them down. But getting snubbed for the last game needs to be seen as a turning point.
Firstly, let’s not act like Arrizabalaga is an abysmal goalkeeper. Anyone who has watched him for longer than the last six months will know that he is a competent player who is just stuck in a rut form-wise.
When a player is unable to play their way out of said rut, they have to be dropped, We’ve hit that point, so now it’s time to see what can be done about it.
And before everyone asks…
Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Premier League this season:
• 24 games
• 55.6% save percentage
• 32 goals conceded
• 5 clean sheets
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 30, 2020
Manager Frank Lampard has spoken to him about his shortcomings, and Arrizabalaga will be well aware of what he needs to do to prove himself once more, and that’s what the Spaniard needs to get things going again.
Perhaps the biggest change in Arrizabalaga’s mentality will be the awareness that he is not untouchable. His status as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper has brought with it a sort of arrogance – a feeling that he can never be dropped.
Well, it turns out he can.
What that should do is light a fire under Arrizabalaga, who now knows he has to be better if he is to keep his position.
His spot in the Chelsea team is important, but his place as Spain’s starting goalkeeper will also mean a lot to Arrizabalaga, and it seems quite fitting that Monday’s game could see him come up against his direct rival, David de Gea.
There is not a single player on this planet against whom Arrizabalaga will want to prove his superiority more than De Gea, who has regained his spot in the national team because of the Chelsea man’s faults. That’s a natural desire and competitiveness that cannot be matched at club level, and it should make Arrizabalaga better.
The pair have long been compared. Both were seen as future stars as youngsters, both impressed during their early career in Spain and both struggled tremendously following their respective switches to England.
What better way for Arrizabalaga to prove that he is out of his funk than by coming out on top against De Gea, who needed his own turning point a few years ago to begin his rise to global superiority.
All in all, facing United on Monday will mean more to Arrizabalaga than perhaps any game ever has. His reputation, his Chelsea career and his national team status are all on the line.
If Arrizabalaga is ever going to prove himself in one solitary game, it is this one.
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