Kepa Arrizabalaga is the next subject of our series analysing the individual performances of our players this season...
Prior to lockdown, Kepa Arrizabalaga had overcome the biggest hurdle yet of his Chelsea career by winning back his place in the team with a superb performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup. He followed it up with a solid showing - and second straight clean sheet - in what would prove our last game before football stopped, the dominant victory over Everton.
It followed a spell out of the team for the man who hitherto had been our first-choice keeper since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao.
Super Cup heroics
Kepa started his second season at Chelsea helpless to prevent a heavy opening-day defeat at Old Trafford, but a few days later in the Super Cup in Istanbul the keeper produced a remarkable save to keep out Virgil van Dijk, having parried a low Mo Salah drive. Somehow clawing the ball onto the woodwork, it ranks among his very best Chelsea saves.
Clean sheets proved hard to come by early in the season as a young, revamped side gelled under new management, but a first shutout against Brighton in late September triggered a six-match winning streak in the league, during which we also beat Ajax away 1-0.
Thwarting Ben Foster
The pick of Kepa’s saves in that period was a dramatic, injury-time stop low to his left that kept out fellow keeper Ben Foster’s header, and denied Watford an unlikely point at Vicarage Road.
‘It was a brilliant save,’ said Frank Lampard afterwards. ‘Sometimes you need your goalkeeper to produce moments like that - that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes it can be a quiet afternoon and it certainly was for him today so I’m pleased for him. It’s great for a keeper’s confidence when those moments come.’
In late November, Kepa sprung to his right to produce a fine penalty stop in a vital Champions League game against Valencia in his homeland, though a misdirected cross that lobbed him later on meant we did not leave the Mestalla with three points. Progress to the knockout stage was nonetheless secured with victory over Lille on matchday six.
Kepa's Spain selection
Meanwhile in the battle to be Spain’s no.1, Kepa’s Chelsea performances in 2019 edged him ahead of David De Gea in the pecking order, and helped his country qualify for the European Championships that will now take place next summer.
Kepa started 2020 with a couple of important saves to earn us a hard-fought point at Brighton in a typically attritional New Year’s Day fixture. One late stop from Neal Maupay with his feet was particularly impressive.
Kepa displaced in goal
In the middle of January, we dropped points in disappointing fashion in consecutive games against Newcastle and Arsenal, with Isaac Hayden’s 94th-minute winner for the Magpies a real sucker-punch.
As in the third round, Willy Caballero then came into the team for the FA Cup, and after we won at Hull the experienced Argentinean kept his place in the side for the next five matches, including home fixtures with Manchester United, Tottenham and Bayern Munich.
Kepa's return to the team and top form
It was Kepa’s turn to play in the FA Cup when Liverpool visited the Bridge in early March, and a superb triple-save in the first half preserved an early advantage given to us by Willian. It visibly lifted his confidence, and served as a reminder to all of his quality.
A clean sheet was thoroughly deserved, and he collected another in the Everton win that followed, a brave late stop earning him an eighth shutout in 33 appearances so far in 2019/20.
Kepa's Premier League stats in 2019/20
Kepa Arrizabalaga stats
Kepa Premier League appearances 2019/20
Kepa has played 25 games in the Premier League so far in 2019/20.
Kepa Champions League appearances 2019/20
Kepa has played six games in the Champions League in 2019/20, his first experience of the competition.
Kepa FA Cup appearances 2019/20
Kepa has played one FA Cup game so far in 2019/20, against Liverpool in our fifth round victory.
Kepa Carabao Cup appearances 2019/20
Kepa did not play in the Carabao Cup this season.
Kepa Premier League clean sheets 2019/20
Kepa has kept six clean sheets in the Premier League in 2019/20.
Kepa Champions League clean sheets 2019/20
Kepa has kept one clean sheet in the Champions League in 2019/20, away to Ajax.
Kepa FA Cup clean sheets 2019/20
Kepa has kept one clean sheet in the FA Cup in 2019/20.