Chelsea raised eyebrows in their world-record £72 million pursuit of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. The fee was the largest in footballing history for a ‘keeper, surpassing the sum paid by Liverpool four weeks prior for Alisson.
However, two years on, the Spaniard’s hefty transfer bill is yet to pay dividends. Unlike his price tag, his performances have been far from astronomical, resembling more of a Shakespearean tragedy than one found in The Guinness Book of World Records.
Arrizabalaga, who has kept just 22 clean sheets in 69 Premier League appearances overall, conceded 47 times from 33 league games this campaign and was just one short of equalling Dmitri Kharine’s unwanted 1993-94 record for most goals conceded in a single Premier League campaign for The Blues.
The ‘keeper’s concession of five against Liverpool in their penultimate league match of the campaign reluctantly led to Frank Lampard dropping the Chelsea number one for their final league game against Wolves, in which number two ‘keeper Willy Caballero kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory.
The defeat may have been Arrizabalaga’s final game for The Blues, with The Express suggesting that the west London club are prepared to sell the ‘keeper for a fee of £50 million, with Atlético Madrid’s prolific Jan Oblak reportedly at the top of Lampard’s wish list.
However, The Pensioners are looking for a cheaper alternative and could turn their attention to the domestic market.
So which Premier League custodian could assume the vacant position in between the sticks for Chelsea?
Dean Henderson – Manchester United
Dean Henderson has had a superb second campaign on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United. In his first loan spell at the club, the ‘keeper kept 21 clean sheets in 46 Championship appearances, as The Blades finished second and earned promotion to the Premier League.
This league campaign, in an arguably more competitive division, Henderson has kept a joint-third tally of 13 clean sheets (equalling that of parent club number one David de Gea) from 36 matches and conceded just 33 times, while De Gea played all 38 matches and conceded three more.
Henderson’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with The Blades boasting the fourth-best defensive record. Red Devils fans believe that he is more than capable of challenging De Gea for the number one spot, especially with the Spaniard having an error-laden campaign.
According to The Mirror, the Englishman is reportedly seeking assurances over his future as number one at Old Trafford. However, without a guaranteed starting place, Chelsea may be opportunistic and lure the 23 year-old to west London.
Nick Pope – Burnley
It seems quite remarkable that 10th-placed Burnley have within its ranks a keeper that has kept the second-most Premier League clean sheets this season. Nick Pope has 15 from 38 appearances, one fewer than Golden Glove winner Ederson and yet two more than De Gea and Alisson.
The ‘keeper was on course to match Ederson on the final day of the league, but a tremendous strike from Yves Bissouma brought an end to his Golden Glove aspirations, with Pope conceding twice against Brighton in a 2-1 loss.
Pope may not have the best or most expensive defence in front of him, but that hasn’t stopped him from playing a pivotal role in helping the side accomplish their second-best Premier League campaign to date, in 10th place on 54 points.
He has also kept two clean sheets in two appearances for England and will certainly be hoping to be feature in their European Championship campaign next summer, which could be increasingly likely should he move to a respectively bigger club in Chelsea.
Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City
Kasper Schmeichel has been a somewhat reliable figure for Leicester City since they were promoted from the Championship and played a significant role on course to their Premier League title in 2016.
The Dane, like Henderson, kept 13 clean sheets this campaign, conceding 41 goals in 38 appearances, the sixth-lowest in the league, as the Foxes recorded their second-best finish since the Premier League’s inception.
Schmeichel did have a few calamitous moments during the season, particularly on the final day against Manchester United, but the son of the former United legend Peter, has been a rock between the posts for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
The Danish international had been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge following the departure of then-Blues number one Thibaut Courtois, but speculation had seemingly ended with Arrizabalaga’s signature. Now, with the Spaniard’s future in doubt, a move to Chelsea could still be on the cards for Schmeichel.
Rui Patrício – Wolves
Rui Patrício has had another fine season in goal for Wolves. The Portuguese improved on his eight clean sheets from last campaign, by getting 13 alongside the aforementioned Henderson and Schmeichel, as Wolves secured a successive seventh-placed finish.
The keeper also conceded six goals fewer this season than last, seeing The Wanderers boast the league’s fifth-best defense. The 32 year-old may not be as young as the other potential keepers, but as a Euro 2016 and 2018-19 UEFA Nations Cup winner, Patrício has European and international tournament experience that distinguishes himself from the other candidates, and would be an able replacement for Arrizabalaga at Chelsea.
Furthermore, with examples like Edwin van der Sar and Petr Čech, who won the Golden Glove at the age of 38 and just shy of his 34th birthday respectively, Patrício certainly has a chance to become the latest player in their 30s to win the award and at a side like Chelsea, who have had a ‘keeper win the accolade on four previous occasions.
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