Chelsea manager Frank Lampard wasted no time in following the pattern established by his predecessor, Graham Potter. After a significant change in team selection for the match against Nottingham Forest. The interim coach reverted to his preferred lineup against Manchester City.
In terms of goalkeepers, Chelsea has transitioned from a position of considerable strength. With Edouard Mendy’s outstanding performances under Thomas Tuchel, establishing himself as one of the world’s best, and Kepa Arrizabalaga serving as a capable backup. Chelsea previously boasted the top goalkeeper and reserve in the league.
Chelsea once possessed an exemplary balance between their first-choice goalkeeper and backup option. However, fast forward 12 months, and they find themselves without a capable No.1 goalkeeper to lead the team forward. Edouard Mendy, who previously displayed immense skill, now appears to be a mere shadow of his former self. Likely due to a lack of playing time this season, resulting in a significant blow to his confidence.
Kepa, who has experienced an improvement in form, currently appears to be the better-performing option between the two goalkeepers. However, concerns still persist regarding his consistency, ability to handle pressure, and long-term suitability as Chelsea’s No.1. Despite showing signs of increased confidence and delivering his best statistical season in England. Kepa has also made notable high-profile errors.
The decision to start Kepa in the 1-0 loss to Manchester City, where he couldn’t do anything to prevent Julian Alvarez’s goal, reflects both the uncertainty surrounding the goalkeeper situation and Kepa’s quality. On the other hand, Mendy’s return to the side for the match against Nottingham Forest at home was less convincing and displayed some unsteady moments.
Chelsea and their intentions
In his first Chelsea performance of 2023, the 31-year-old goalkeeper found himself in a challenging situation. He rushed out from goal to collect a cross amidst the presence of Thiago Silva, Benoit Badiashile, and Taiwo Awoniyi, but his timing and execution went awry, leaving the Nigerian forward with an empty goal to head into after winning the initial ball.
Examining late 2021, there were indications that Mendy’s previously world-class level had started to wane. Despite returning victorious from the African Cup of Nations. His performances were no longer at the same exceptional level. This decline continued into the current season, with questions raised regarding his involvement in both goals conceded against Tottenham at home in August. Followed by losing possession and allowing Leeds United to score the opening goal in a 3-0 loss at Elland Road a few weeks later.
Pochettino has expressed his desire for a goalkeeper who excels in playing with the ball. Which favors Kepa over Mendy. However, he also values players who are strong in aerial duels and assertive in dealing with crosses. Which neither goalkeeper currently exemplifies. This creates an unsettling situation as both keepers fall short of Pochettino’s ideal profile.
Considering the substantial combined value of £91m spent on acquiring the two goalkeepers, it is unlikely that the club will see a significant return on their investment. Mendy, however, has arguably already justified his relatively lower cost with his contributions to Chelsea’s 2021 Champions League triumph. On the other hand, finding a club willing to match Kepa’s substantial wages poses a challenge.
Lampard has already expressed his stance on the matter, and it seems improbable that Pochettino will hold a significantly different perspective.
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