Can Mendy resolve Chelsea's Kepa problem? New goalkeeper leaves record signing with no more room for error

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Kepa Arrizabalaga Edouard Mendy Chelsea
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The Spaniard is likely to start against Liverpool on Sunday but his place is now under serious threat because of the Senegalese's imminent arrival

The new Premier League season has begun just as the last ended, with pundits and fans lining up to criticise the world's most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.

However, Chelsea have now decided to address the growing concern over the Spaniard's shot-stopping, with the club set to complete a £22 million ($29m) deal for Edouard Mendy, who will compete with Kepa for a starting berth.

On current form, it won't take long for Mendy to establish himself as Frank Lampard's No.1.

In the opening-weekend win at Brighton, Kepa was beaten by a speculative 25-yard shot from Leandro Trossard early in the second half.

It was the 19th Premier League goal Kepa has conceded from outside the penalty area since he joined Chelsea in 2018 – more than any other goalkeeper during that time.

In addition, there were several unconvincing attempts to deal with set-piece deliveries, which only served to remind everyone why Lampard dropped Kepa twice last season, for Willy Caballero.

The Blues boss admirably tried to defend his first-choice goalkeeper after the game, as he knew full well that the club-record £71m ($91m) signing was in for another rough ride from the media.

"I am happy with Kepa, I saw confidence in him," he told Sky Sports. "He is here, he is our 'keeper and I am happy with him."

However, the move for Mendy spoke volumes.

Lampard is clearly aware that he desperately needs a more reliable option in between the posts, someone he can turn to if Kepa fails to rediscover the form that made him one of the most in-demand goalkeepers in the world just two years ago.

Kepa will likely line up against Liverpool on Sunday and it is hard to know what to expect from the 25-year-old, as his performances against the Reds probably best sum up the topsy-turvy nature of his Chelsea career to date.

After putting in a solid display in the Blues' FA Cup win over Jurgen Klopp's men in March, Kepa reclaimed his regular starting spot.

However, after conceding five goals at Anfield towards the tail end of the Premier League season, he was dropped again, which meant he spent the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal on the bench.

During that defeat on Merseyside, Virgil van Dijk was presented with a simple, far-post tap-in to make it 6-3 but the Dutch defender blazed the ball over the bar.

However, Kepa was nonetheless berated by his defenders, who felt he was guilty of being too cautious in his approach to claiming crosses. This reticence to come off his line is one of the reasons why so many opponents know to target Chelsea in the air.

Games against Liverpool are also somewhat awkward for Kepa, as he knows full well that Chelsea tried to sign Alisson before he arrived at Stamford Bridge as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois.

Along with Van Dijk, Alisson is considered one of the main reasons why the Reds are now in possession of one of the best defences in world football, with the Brazilian excelling not only as a shot-stopper, but also as an organiser and a sweeper-keeper.

In July, Lampard spoke of how Kepa needs to work towards reaching the same level of influence as Alisson, but also former Blues goalkeepers like Courtois and Petr Cech.

Kepa GFX

"That has to be Kepa’s desire, to be that kind of person for this club, so that he can say that he’s a huge part of a successful team," the manager told reporters.

“It’s not just on Kepa, of course, but in his own way that is what he has to believe and work towards.”

However, Chelsea would have happily sold Kepa during the transfer window. Both Valencia and Sevilla were interested in taking him on loan but were ultimately dissuaded from doing so on account of his £170,000-a-week (£220,000) salary.

It's hardly surprising that Lampard still felt compelled to sign another goalkeeper, even after £200m ($252m) summer spending spree. The Blues need to be far more solid in defence this season if they are to have any chance of mounting a title challenge.

Acquiring Mendy, then, should help. He has played with far greater consistency and quality over the past two seasons than Kepa.

Indeed, Cech and Christophe Lollichon, the former Rennes goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, have been hugely impressed with the 28-year-old's performances for Reims and Rennes and it was those two that advised Chelsea to bid for the Senegal international.

According to Opta's expected goals metric, Mendy had prevented 3.1 more goals than he should have last season, while Kepa conceded 10.7 more than he should have.

Of course, Mendy will need time to adapt to a new league and a new country, as well as the fact that he will be under pressure to prove himself worthy of being Chelsea's No.1.

Kepa, of course, won't give up his place without a fight. But with Mendy now breathing down his neck, there is no longer any room for error.

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