Is Kepa Arrizabalaga a modern goalkeeper?
July 25, 2023
July 25, 2023 — I was curious to see how good or bad Kepa Arrizabalaga’s distribution was when Chelsea faced Brighton on Saturday. Here is every pass he made in that match.
Brighton man-marked throughout the pitch, but almost always left a man free on the far side throughout the entire match, when Kepa had the ball. One forward from Brighton would de-mark and curve their press to force Kepa to one side.
He would normally look for the short pass and was accurate with the medium to short passes on the ground.
This pass was accurate to pick out the right foot of Gallagher in a tight space, under pressure from Kepa’s left side.
If they failed to move the ball out, he would rightly resort to passing long to the forwards so that they could reset.
Thiago Silva was under pressure, but he put Kepa in a bad spot with a slow-rolling short pass. Kepa should have just kicked the ball long to the forwards, but he chose the riskier medium pass to Gallagher.
The pass was poor from Kepa, just wide of Gallagher, gifting back possession.
Then we go quickly back to nice passes like this to a player in the half-space. Good weight on the pass, firmly hit, and to their left foot so that they can immediately shield the ball from the Brighton defender.
Far side is always open.
This chip to Levi Colwill was smart, ignoring the free man on the far side. Brighton wanted him to play to his right, but the pass to the left opened up the play. Now three Chelsea players are free to receive and play out of their half.
Again, another well-executed chipped pass to feet.
He should have chipped it wide to the far side rather than put the midfielder in the half-space in trouble with three men converging. Well hit pass though to feet.
Didn’t make good contact on this long ball, under pressure. Might have been the turf putting him off a bit with the ball bobbling but still not something that should never happen.
His short passes are always accurate, as you’d expect.
He got a little too much height on this chip, but I was impressed with the accuracy. Very smart idea and well executed overall.
If Chelsea had a more dominant aerial presence at center-forward than this 50/50 likely would have been won. Well-driven long ball that had to be made due to the lack of options short and medium.
That ends the first half. Great half. Outside of the two errors, he had a ton of touches, and the passing was well executed. The chips were crisp, and he did well to drive the long balls to the forwards rather than allow the ball to get too much air underneath it. That gives Chelsea’s less physical forwards a half chance at winning the aerial duel.
A very bad start to the second half with this pass. He should have just played the simple ball wide to either defender. Not good but easily avoidable next time. Poor decision-making.
This was a good decision. Don’t do anything dumb like attempting to dribble out of this. Just kick it out of play and allow the defense to get back and reset.
Towards the end of the match, Brighton’s counter-pressing wasn’t as good. Players were subbed out, and tiredness began to set in.
He should have passed to either player on his right rather than Marc Cucurella on the left because Cucurella was immediately under pressure.
Overall I’d say it was a good match from Kepa. 3 errors in total out of 23 passes against the Premier League’s most complex counter-press.
To answer my question in the title; Kepa Arrizabalaga is a modern goalkeeper. A modern goalkeeper needs to be able to pass and save, but most importantly pass. It’s a requirement now.
His distribution is not as poor as many will have you believe. He’s not Ederson, but no one is. The vast majority of his passes are accurate, to feet, and firm. The Spanish roots run deep.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a significant upgrade for Kepa, even if you wanted one. All options are sideways moves or downgrades. The only reasonable option would be someone younger that they can develop, like 23-year-old Yehvann Diouf from Reims.
It doesn’t sound sexy and cool to keep what you have, instead of spending £50m+ for a goalkeeper that may or might not be an upgrade, but there’s no better options. A backup would be good but buying a shiny new starting goalkeeper isn’t a must for Chelsea.
Kepa is an incredible shot-stopper and an underrated passer, but he can be prone to lapses in judgment. He needs to keep playing simple and maintain a higher level of focus because three errors can lead to three goals. Chelsea need to instill confidence in him to maintain consistency.