It always takes time for a goalkeeper coming from abroad to settle in the Premier League.
Think of David de Gea when he signed for Manchester United in 2011.
Despite arriving as a well-rounded keeper, it took de Gea at least a season to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League.
On Monday night, Jamie Carragher cited Thibaut Courtois’ replacement – Kepa Arrizabalaga – as being a reason why Chelsea will miss out on the top four.
“The goalkeeper is still young. He may go on to be one of the world’s best, but it’s not Courtois. They have lost one of the world’s best,” Carragher said on Sky Sports‘ Monday Night Football (7pm, 20/08/2018).
Despite Courtois’ excellence at Atletico Madrid and in his first season at Chelsea, his performances had been slipping over the past 18 months.
And although Kepa may be disappointed that he didn’t save Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal on Saturday, his shot-stopping is one of his strengths.
But, most importantly, Kepa fits what Maurizio Sarri wants from his goalkeeper, whereas Courtois didn’t.
At Napoli, Sarri had Pepe Reina – a master with the ball at his feet – which enabled Napoli to build from the back.
Courtois never convinced with the ball at his feet, so signing a keeper who is a natural – e.g. Kepa – was important for Sarri’s philosophy.
And yes, it may take time for Kepa to learn to cope with the physicality of the Premier League.
But de Gea did quite magnificently and Manchester United still succeeded, so why can’t Kepa?
So although he may have to adjust, Courtois’ departure and Kepa’s arrival is no reason for Chelsea to miss out on the top four.
There are other reasons why they may miss out, but it won’t be Chelsea’s record signing.