Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has been advised to abandon plans to launch a raid on Burnley for Nick Pope and instead keep the faith with Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has proven he has “outrageous” ability in between the sticks.
Arrizabalaga’s Stamford Bridge future has come into question after the Spaniard was dropped for the second time this season by Frank Lampard.
Having brought back-up shot-stopper Willy Caballero into the team for four Premier League matches in February, Arrizabalaga also dropped to the bench against Wolves on the final day of the season.
Caballero was also trusted in goal in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Sunday, which Lampard’s side lost 2-1.
Arrizabalaga was only signed from Athletic Bilbao for a world-record £72million fee two years ago but he has encountered plenty of critics during his switch to the Premier League.
And having conceded 58 goals in 41 games this term, including 47 in just 33 top-flight outings, questions are being asked as to whether he is a good enough No 1 if Chelsea want to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the title as of next season.
Arrizabalaga’s save percentage was the worst in the league with close to half of the shots on target that the Blues conceded getting past him.
Jan Oblak, Andre Onana and Pope – who the Daily Star say is now Chelsea’s chief option to take the gloves – are among those being considered as replacements for Arrizabalaga per reports.
The Star claim that 28-year-old Pope could leave Turf Moor for around £50m, having kept 15 clean sheets in the Premier League, and that the player wants the move to aid his chances of ousting Everton’s Jordan Pickford as first-choice keeper for England.
But former Chelsea full-back Glen Johnson thinks that his old team-mate Lampard should actually look to give Arrizabalaga, still only 25, more time in west London.
And that’s partly because he does not believe any team across Europe will pay over £30m if Lampard wants to sell the Spain international, which would represent a major loss for the club on the fee they paid.
Yet also because the player-turned-pundit points out that Arrizabalaga showed at his previous club Bilbao that he has the talent to be a top-tier keeper.
“For me, based on performances? I’d say no [he shouldn’t be No 1 for Chelsea]. But it’s not as easy as that,” Johnson told Stadium Astro.
“The board have supported the club and they’ve given a huge amount of money to go and get a superstar, that they thought they were getting.
“Imagine if you’re the board and the manager comes to you and says, ‘We want to buy a goalkeeper’, 24 months after spending £80m on one.
“They’re going to laugh at you. The business aspect, it doesn’t really work. It’s in their interest to work with him and try him get back to his best level.
“In terms of his level at the moment, no, for me he’s not Chelsea’s No 1. But I think he has the ability, he has it in him.
“For whatever reason he’s not performing at the moment. Chelsea’s best scenario is to put their arm around him, work out what he needs and support him because at the moment I don’t see him as Chelsea’s No 1.”
Johnson added: “I think for many reasons Chelsea have to nurture him back to his best because right now I don’t think people would pay £30m for him.
“So, you’re not going to set fire to £50m just to get the guy out of the door. I can’t imagine he’s that much of a bad character that you just desperately want to get rid of him.
“I think there’s many reasons to point towards working with what you’ve got and trying to get him back to his best.
“When he was at Bilbao, he was making saves that were ridiculous, outrageous. He has the ability, the capability is there, they just somehow have to nurture it back out of him and get him smiling again and get him some confidence.
“Yes there’s been goals going in this season he should be saving with his eyes closed but for whatever reason, it all boils down to confidence.
“Business-wise and personnel-wise, I think it’s best for Lamps to work with what he’s got.”
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