At Chelsea FC, world goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is suddenly only on the bench – while record-breaking goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is experiencing a furious sporting resurgence. What is it all about?

He is once again the number-one goalkeeper at Chelsea FC.

After slip-ups, harsh criticism, and demotion, it seemed hard to imagine that Kepa Arrizabalaga would once again achieve this status with the Blues.

Flashback: Four years ago, the club from London made the Spaniard the most expensive goalkeeper in the world with a transfer fee of 80 million euros. A burden that noticeably inhibited the 28-year-old goalkeeper after a strong debut season.

But since Graham Potter took over the sidelines and keeper Edouard Mendy was temporarily out of action, the situation for Kepa at Chelsea has taken a turn for the better.

Chelsea goes on a strong run with Kepa

The Spaniard has played every possible minute since Thomas Tuchel’s departure in September.

With Kepa between the posts, Chelsea has gone five consecutive games without conceding a goal. The last time the Blues managed such a series was in the autumn of 2016.

In recent games, Kepa has shown incredible reflexes, flying saves, and saves galore. In the 2-0 win over Aston Villa, he saved seven shots, six of them in the first half alone. According to data provider Opta, this is the most the Spaniard has ever saved in a Premier League match.

Coach Potter is not the least enthusiastic about his goalkeeper, even awarding him a “world-class” rating. “He made some very good saves at a time when we really needed him. I am very happy with Kepa,” praised the 47-year-old.

Kepa’s performance and the coach’s statements clearly suggest that the right-footed keeper is now back in the number one position – much to the chagrin of fellow goalkeeper Mendy.

World goalkeeper Mendy is now only on the bench

The Senegalese have been on the bench for the full 90 minutes seven times in a row since recovering from a minor injury. Some fans have already advised the goalkeeper to leave the team on social media.

As a reminder: Mendy received nothing less than the FIFA World Goalkeeper award in 2021 after winning the Champions League title with Chelsea. That was one of the reasons why the situation seemed so hopeless for record transfer Kepa at the time, for whom the Londoners had put a direct competitor in front of his nose by signing Mendy in 2020.

Kepa fights his way back from low points

Why at all? Kepa had previously been increasingly sidelined.

His inglorious nadir came in the 2019 Carabao Cup when he refused to be substituted before the penalty shootout in the final, undermining the authority of ex-Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri.

Kepa’s fortunes were not to improve under subsequent coaches, Frank Lampard and, most recently, Tuchel.

Things also went badly for Kepa when he was substituted in the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool FC in February 2022. He failed to save a shot in the penalty shoot-out and was the eleventh player to miss the decisive penalty, and Chelsea lost.

Nevertheless, Kepa stayed at Stamford Bridge last summer – but also because the club could not find a buyer for the top earner. However, when Mendy returned from an international trip with an injury, the regular substitute was on hand to make the most of his opportunity.

“I think it’s a great example for everyone that sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to. Sometimes in life, you have to suffer, but I have to say I’m very impressed with his character and his personality,” Potter recently paid tribute to his shot-stopper.

Recognition and praise for Chelsea’s Kepa

Kepa, meanwhile, has not only received recognition from his coach. “He was open and said he wanted to change clubs, but he pulled himself together and is a good example for young players that you can rebuild your confidence and yourself,” said former Chelsea professional Joe Cole.

Former England coach Glenn Hoddle, on the other hand, highlighted Kepa’s “mental strength”, summing up: “He got his chance and took it with both hands.”

Above all, Kepa’s self-confidence seems to have returned thanks to Potter.

As long as that continues, Mendy, as a challenger, has no choice but to hope for appearances in the cup competitions in order to recommend himself for a return to goal.