Former Chelsea goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock has called on Kepa Arrizabalaga to find a way of enjoying his football again, with the Spaniard's inconsistent form across the season having put his long-term future up in the air.
The shot-stopper made a world-record £71 million ($89m) move from Athletic Bilbao to Stamford Bridge in 2018 but has looked far from convincing since Frank Lampard took over in the dugout.
The Blues boss dropped Kepa for five games over the winter period but recalled him for the last two matches before football was called to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And Hitchcock, who spent 10 years with Chelsea and now works as a goalkeeping coach at the New England Revolution, believes that his former club's history of world-class 'keepers coupled with Kepa's hefty price tag will weigh heavy on the Spain international's shoulders.
However, he does feel that the 25-year-old's age puts him in good stead to prove that he can be Chelsea's No.1 for years to come.
“Chelsea have been lucky to have Carlo Cudicini, Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois for years,” Hitchcock told Goal. “They're finding it a little bit difficult to replace these top-quality goalkeepers.
“The goalkeeper they've got at the moment is young and have a £71m price tag around his neck – he's not having it easy. Every mistake you make is magnified into a big one. I would let him play and find a way to enjoy it.
“If you put the guy under so much pressure then it isn't easy for him to be free – let him do what he's good at and I think he will be okay.
“He's still just 25. He's young and he's going to make mistakes. He just needs to only make mistakes that don't cost Chelsea games. That's the goal for any 'keeper.”
Chelsea will return to competing for a Champions League finish in the English top-flight once a date has been announced for the safe resumption of football, with Hitchcock of the opinion that Lampard still has a lot of work to do in order to begin fighting for Premier League titles.
“It's going to be tough to compete with the top two teams for Frank and Jody Morris, having had the [transfer] embargo,” he said. “They need time to bring their own players in and compete with Manchester City and Liverpool. That's what Chelsea deserves.
“I think they need two or three transfer windows, you can't build a team in one. You need time to build and let people settle in. It all takes time and it's hard to come into a new environment and hit the ground running.
“They've got people working behind the scenes who can help them bring in top players. I hope they get the guys in to compete with Man City and Liverpool.”