Return of Kepa
The return of Kepa Arrizabalaga to the Spanish national team after more than 3 years without playing tells the story of rebuilding from a difficult and confusing time: “I went through the most difficult period. I never stopped. compete in life”.
On Monday, the Chelsea goalkeeper was happy to step foot in the Las Rozas sports center, with Spain preparing for the EURO 2024 qualifying match against Norway this weekend.
Kepa’s confidants refer to nearly two seasons in which he lost the starting title at the London capital club, where he arrived in 2018 as the most expensive goalkeeper in history. Chelsea spent 80 million to break the contract of the Basque boy with Bilbao.
Billionaire Roman Abramovich – former owner of Chelsea – hired Thomas Tuchel in January 2021 and that’s when Kepa’s fortunes began to turn.
“We were playing in a very special way, a different formation, with five defenders,” Kepa recalls. “A new coach asks us for other things that we haven’t used yet, or things that are unusual for goalkeepers.”
From the reign of Maurizio Sarri to Tuchel is a completely different school of football.
“We worked with an Italian coach, who values goalkeepers with good footwork. And then a German came (after a short time working with Frank Lampard – PV), offering us positions. other, to help other aspects”.
This change caused Kepa to be substituted for Edouard Mendy. “When you’re forced to break away from what you’ve been doing for years, you need time, you need to look at other examples to adapt.”
It was a very difficult moment when Luis Enrique, who had just left the Spain team after the 2022 World Cup, spoke to Kepa to explain that if he did not play regularly in London it would not be convenient to appear. on team calls.
Despite his disappointment, Kepa accepted what happened: “I understand that I have no chance in the national team. If I don’t play every weekend… My first goal is to play against mine. The next target is here, with Spain.”
Efforts to overcome difficulties
The mental turning point to getting through an unusual situation starts with the little things. “I decided to go home every day with a calm head, with the feeling that I had given everything,” the 28-year-old goalkeeper explained. “It’s the first step to turn the tide.”
Chelsea experienced uncertainties when moving from the Abramovich period to the US investor group, represented by billionaire Todd Boehly. In addition, Mendy revealed many problems that opened up opportunities for Kepa.
“There are two directions, one is to take advantage of it to have more time to analyze myself, the other is to improve the points where we can improve the most,” Kepa describes how to try to overcome difficulties when sitting on the bench, to and now have the opportunity to compete with Spain for tickets to EURO 2024.
“I see every game as a great opportunity, to pay attention to every little detail and become a better goalkeeper. Now, with the trust of the coach (Graham Potter), I try to update everything. all those things”.
The fruit of the rebuilding is remarkable: Kepa is setting the best record of his career this season in the Premier League, where he is the goalkeeper with the best save percentage, 77.8 %.
Kepa also ranks 4th among goalkeepers with the best clean sheet rate. He achieved this rate in 42.1% of matches, more than ever in his career.
Not only standing out in the Premier League, Kepa is also the 10th goalkeeper in the 5 major European leagues to avoid the most goals. According to Fbref, he avoids an average of 0.18 goals every 90 minutes.
When playing regularly, from Bilbao to Chelsea, never before has Kepa played such a decisive role for his team.
Completing the part of the plan related to his position at Chelsea, the result he expected has arrived. Kepa returns to the national team: “It’s exciting to be back here, back to Las Rozas”, he smiles and waits to face the Norwegian attack, whose strength is greatly reduced because there is no Erling Haaland.
Ngoc Huy | 12:35 March 22, 2023