The Blues boss has jumped to the defence of the Spanish shot-stopper despite dropping him from his latest starting line up
Frank Lampard says Kepa Arrizabalaga has been subjected to a lot of “unfair” criticism in recent months, and that the out-of-form goalkeeper hasn’t played his last game for Chelsea.
Kepa has struggled to live up to his world-record £72 million ($90m) transfer fee since joining Chelsea from Athletic Club in the summer of 2018.
The 25-year-old showed glimpses of his potential during his first full season at Stamford Bridge under Maurizio Sarri, but has been unable to build on that platform since Frank Lampard’s return to the club last summer.
The Spain international’s erratic performances cost the Blues valuable points in 2019-20, and he was dropped on several occasions with veteran back-up Willy Caballero stepping in.
Lampard ultimately decided to give Kepa another chance to prove himself at the start of the new season, but he let in a soft goal during the win over Brighton on September 14 and gifted Sadio Mane his second goal as Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge a week later.
The Blues have since signed Edouard Mendy from Rennes for £22 million ($28m), and the 28-year-old is expected to inherit the No 1 spot as soon as he gets up to match fitness.
The Senegalese keeper was not ready to feature in Chelsea’s clash with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, which ended in a 3-3 draw, with Lampard picking Cabellero over Kepa to spark more questions over his future.
Asked if the world’s most expensive goalkeeper has played his last game for the club, the Blues boss told a press conference on Monday: “No, I won’t go to that point. It’s been a hard time for him. Kepa is a young man and a lot of the spotlight has been unfair.”
Lampard also addressed Antonio Rudiger’s current situation after leaving him out of Chelsea’s last three matchday squads, but gave little away when pressed on the possibility of the German defender leaving the club before the transfer window closes.
“I wouldn’t assume anything. I will make no assumption,” he said.
The 42-year-old went on to discuss the possibility of Victor Moses playing a role for the Blues this season after returning from a loan spell at Inter, revealing the Nigerian full-back has not been training with the rest of the senior squad.
“At the moment Victor isn’t in that position with us, he hasn’t been part of the bubble. We will see how the week goes,” he said.
Lampard concluded by assessing his side’s nightmare first-half performance at the Hawthorns, which saw West Brom race into a 3-0 lead, before insisting his team will gradually improve ahead of an EFL Cup round of 16 clash with Tottenham on Tuesday.
“They were clear individual mistakes, you can’t hide from them,” he said. “The players held their hands up. We have to take it on the chin. The positive we got a point from that position, but of course, we wanted more.
“I am not making excuses, but some of the work we put in last year was why we were successful. off the ball our work was great. We haven’t had the chance to work as much this year. We are in a process, we have to fight through it. Every game is an opportunity to improve”