Cesar Azpilicueta has paid tribute to the mental toughness of his Chelsea team-mate and national team colleague Kepa Arrizabalaga for staying positive through difficult times and fighting to regain his place between the posts for the Blues.
The Spain keeper is the only player to start all nine matches under Graham Potter, conceding just four goals in that run, earning impressive reviews and a consistent spell in the team.
Azpilicueta believes the Redemptive Story arc is a testament to Kepa’s hidden work and the strength of character he displayed.
“I’m really happy for him,” the skipper said recently. “Of course he had some tough times, but his strength is always staying positive and training hard every day.
“We know as a player that you want to play all the time, but the manager makes the decision. As a goalkeeper, it’s a unique position where I can’t say much because they often train alone.
“They spend a lot of time together, so it’s a very rare position with their own pressure. They are the last man in goal so every mistake is very watchable and a lot of people criticize them. It shows his mentality of being strong and continuing to work hard for his luck.
The Blues are blessed with quality goalkeeper options and now is the time for Edouard Mendy to remain patient as a back-up. However, Azpilicueta knows that the mentality is right throughout the group, ensuring that whoever Potter chooses remains ready and willing to step in.
‘We have a fantastic group of goalkeepers with Edou and Betts [Marcus Bettinelli] also and it is the joy of our team, to have these guys every day,” he added.
“Whoever plays, everyone is 100 per cent and the next day everyone is trying to help. We are very lucky to have an incredible group of goalkeepers.
Kepa hasn’t played for the Spanish national team since October 2020 but his return to the Chelsea side may have just opened the door to a place in Luis Enrique’s World Cup squad. There’s fierce competition for these gloves too, with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon the recognized number one.
David De Gea and Robert Sanchez, the goalkeeper we faced last weekend in the Premier League and the one we have to face on Saturday afternoon, are the other serious contenders and Azpilicueta acknowledges that La Roja have plenty of options.
“He and David, they’ve both been in England for a long time,” Azpi added.
“We are lucky to have very good goalkeepers in Spain.”