What can Chelsea do with Kepa?

Chelsea’s deployment of young players over the course of the 2019/20 season has been an unmitigated success. The Blues’ hand was forced b...

Chelsea’s deployment of young players over the course of the 2019/20 season has been an unmitigated success. The Blues’ hand was forced by their inability to splash the cash after being hit by a transfer embargo by FIFA. However, it has allowed Frank Lampard to test his young charges' ability on a weekly basis, throwing them in at the deep end.

Almost all of the fledgelings have thrived under the pressure to perform in the Premier League and the Champions League. Tammy Abraham has been outstanding leading the line, producing an elite level of form in the top flight as well as Europe. Mason Mount has productive from the middle of the park along with Christian Pulisic, with both players providing solid support for the 22-year-old. Pulisic is the one player that was signed by the club before the embargo hit, but the American has blended in with his surroundings after taking time to bed into English football.

The three players have the ability to allow Chelsea to compete in the Champions League. Even though Lampard’s men produced excellent performances to advance to the Round of 16 in the competition, they’re not one of the leading contenders in the football betting odds to triumph. They face a massive challenge against Bayern Munich, and the Blues will need everyone in their squad on song to defeat Robert Lewandowski and company.

Although the young players have been a success, there is an element of concern over one position. Kepa Arrizabalaga was supposed to the club’s long-term solution to replace Thibaut Courtois after his departure to Real Madrid in 2018. Chelsea paid the highest fee for a keeper in the history of the game to secure the Spaniard’s signature from Athletic Bilbao.

It’s fair to say the 25-year-old has endured a tumultuous two years at Stamford Bridge. He openly defied former manager Maurizio Sarri last season in the EFL Cup final by refusing to be replaced for the penalty shootout against Manchester City even after it appeared he was suffering from cramp. Kepa was fined and dropped after the contest, but he did return to the line-up one game later.

Lampard has kept faith with the keeper for the majority of the season, although he has struggled immensely in all facets of his game. The 25-year-old has not been authoritative at the back to command his backline, while he has a phobia of leaving his line to claim crosses to attempt to ease the pressure on his defenders. Kepa has panicked with his distribution, putting his team-mates under duress with a series of poor passes. Even his shot-stopping has been suspect with apparent technical issues. For a player worth £71m it’s not good enough and Lampard was forced to take action against Leicester City to remove the Spaniard from the firing line and replacing him with Willy Caballero.

Chelsea need Kepa back in the line-up at his best as they cannot allow their significant investment to be wasted. There has been an element of patience with the other young players in the side and it may be best for the Blues to take their lumps for now. However, with the prospect of one of Europe’s leading marksman looming in a knockout situation, it’s a huge decision for Lampard.

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