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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Chelsea’s goalkeeper situation has only gotten more complicated

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Willy Caballero extending for another year at Chelsea does not change the keeper situation, but it will make it more complicated.

For most of the last decade, Chelsea has followed a formula with their three keepers. There will be the first choice, then usually an older but very capable backup, and then there will either be a much older player or a youth player. This formula has remained more or less unbroken.

With Kepa Arrizabalaga struggling this season and at one point being dropped outright for Willy Caballero, there is a strong sense that Chelsea will want to reinforce that position. That was done, in part, because Willy Caballero was expected to be leaving at the season’s end. He has now extended.

Realistically though, that has not changed the situation. It has made it more complicated if Chelsea truly does want a new keeper though.

First of all is Arrizabalaga. Regardless of what Chelsea plans to do with him in the long term, he will be back next season. He simply makes too much, cost too much, and is on too long of a contract to move, especially now with COVID-19 disrupting the market.

That is not to say he cannot be challenged however. Caballero has already done so this season and an extension will allow him to continue to do so. The main issue there however, is that Caballero is not a young as he once was.

That is why, at 38, Caballero could be making the transition to third choice keeper. Aside from Arrizabalaga being dropped this season, Caballero really did not play often. That is likely a truer reflection as to what he can expect as his career winds down at Chelsea. So that still leaves a third keeper spot (not to be confused with the third keeper role in the squad) to be filled.

On paper, that spot is Jamie Cumming’s. He has not played a match this season and that is unlikely to change. Nathan Baxter has been doing well on loan, but it may be too soon for him to return and create a real challenge for the starting spot.

So Chelsea will have one of two options on the table. They can go with another youth keeper and keep Caballero as the nominal number two with Arrizabalaga fairly unchallenged. The other option is buy a new keeper who can challenge Arrizabalaga more directly as Caballero is pushed into the third seat.

That is where Andre Onana comes in. The Blues already have a good relationship with Ajax and with an allegedly low transfer fee, Onana is a no brainer. He will be very direct competition to Arrizabalaga’s playing time. Many may think Chelsea will avoid any situation like that, but the Blues want to be one of the world’s most elite, top tier clubs again. Those clubs, such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, generally have two keepers who could be starting at any other club in the world. The competition makes them both better.

Next: Chelsea: Will the next striker winger hybrid come on up?

Caballero’s extension has not changed the situation so much as complicated it. The Blues simply need to decide how highly they rank both Arrizabalaga and Caballero before they decide whether to fill that third seat from the top or the bottom.

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