Premier League • England

Ian Wright hails star’s ‘miraculous’ Chelsea recovery, admitting he could have followed Karius path

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Edouard Mendy, Chelsea, August 2021

Ian Wright has hailed Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for bouncing back from adversity, unlike former Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Kepa has been one of the Premier League’s most surprising players this season. Indeed, the Blues goalkeeper hardly got a sniff last term.

Edouard Mendy was Chelsea’s preferred man between the sticks in both the Premier League and Champions League. However, since Graham Potter took charge at Stamford Bridge, he has opted for Kepa.

That is a decision that has paid dividends so far. Indeed, the Spaniard has been in scintillating form in the Chelsea net.

That was highlighted when he kept five consecutive clean sheets across all competitions at the beginning of October. He is clearly ready to repay the faith the boss has in him, after sitting out under previous managers.

Kepa’s Chelsea career has not been without its ups and downs. The goalkeeper famously refused to come off when Maurizio Sarri wanted to hook him in the 2018/19 League Cup final.

Chelsea went on to lose the penalty shootout that followed regulation time. Kepa did not fare much better in the 2021/22 final, failing to save a single penalty, and missing his own as the Blues lost to Liverpool.

He particularly took stick for his tactic when it came to Virgil van Dijk’s penalty. Indeed, Kepa positioned himself much closer to one post than the other, and still failed to reach the penalty that was directed into the top corner on that side of the net.

Cup final could have finished Kepa

Former Premier League striker Wright feels the keeper has done well to bounce back from that moment.

“What happened with him at that Wembley final with van Dijk could have finished him,” he said on Wrighty’s House.

“That finishes people. It probably finishes you as a goalkeeper. He fell so low that people had actually forgotten about him. Mendy got injured and has lost form, Kepa’s come in and everyone has remembered him again.”

Wright has hailed Kepa for his performances this season, believing he has turned a corner.

“When you watched him the other week against Aston Villa, he made some great saves,” he added.

“You then realise the man’s changed. He’s gone from a caterpillar to a butterfly with the saves he’s making.

Kepa could have followed Karius route

Wright also worried that following the League Cup incident, Kepa could have gone down the same route as former Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.

“We all saw what happened with Karius in the Champions League final. I’m not saying Kepa fell to those depths but you’re still in a place where you can’t see the light,” he said.

“I’ve seen players down and not come back. I think that journey is underestimated. What he’s done is fantastic.”

Indeed, Karius dropped a poor performance in the 2018 Champions League final. A number of mistakes allowed for Real Madrid scoring opportunities, as the Spanish side beat Liverpool 3-1.

Karius did not play for the Reds again, and is currently warming the bench at Newcastle United. While a similar situation could have happened to Kepa, he has bounced back, and is putting in some top Chelsea performances this season.