After joining up with the Spain squad ahead of their upcoming internationals against Portugal, Switzerland and Ukraine, Kepa Arrizabalaga insists he has confidence in himself to regain his starting spot for club and country.
While the 26-year-old lined up between the posts in Spain’s final game before the international schedule was postponed last season, he was an unused substitute in both September Nations League outings and has faced the prospect of additional competition at Stamford Bridge with the arrival of Edouard Mendy in recent weeks.
However, Kepa acknowledges that such competition is simply par for the course at the highest level and believes he will rediscover his best form soon through hard work and application.
‘I’m feeling good, feeling fit and confident,’ he stated at a Spain press conference in Madrid earlier today, held as part of his international duty.
‘Obviously it's not the situation I dreamt of or anticipated but at the end of the day, footballers have to go through periods like this over the course of their career. I’m confident that I can turn things around by working hard and doing my best when I get the chance to play.’
The goalkeeper’s next opportunity for match action comes tomorrow when Spain travel to Lisbon to take on their Iberian rivals, though just like at club level, competition for the gloves is fierce. David De Gea is a long-time competitor, while Unai Simon, Kepa’s successor at Athletic Bilbao, has been called up for just the second time and will be eager to claim his first senior cap.
‘Unai is a great goalkeeper and I always follow Athletic Bilbao,’ said Kepa. ‘I have friends there and I wish them all the best.
‘We have three goalkeepers here and the standard across the board is very high. I’m very happy to be here and have the support of the manager. Whether or not it’s your turn to play, we have to come together for the team.’
Frank Lampard recently praised the attitude of the Spaniard, commenting: ‘It’s been a difficult time for Kepa and that’s been well-documented but we should also understand that he’s a young man and a lot of the spotlight on him has been slightly unfair.
‘I have to protect him because I know he’s a good lad playing with absolute professionalism and intent to do the best he can.’
It is that work-rate and endeavour that Kepa believes will be key in him regaining the faith of Lampard and Luis Enrique, the Spanish national team coach.
‘The life of a footballer is one of lots of highs and lows,’ he explained. ‘My situation now is not the same as it was this time a year ago. The only thing that is in my hands is my work ethic.
‘I think I have shown my ability and will carry on doing that. Now is the time for me to keep calm and believe in myself. I feel trusted by my club and the national team.’