Shaka Hislop suggested that Edouard Mendy’s move to Chelsea has actually improved Kepa Arrizbalaga as a player.
Speaking on ESPN, Hislop had little doubts over Kepa’s development, despite constantly playing back-up to the Senegalese international.
Frank Lampard made little secret about wanting to replace the Spaniard when he signed Mendy last September from Rennes for £22 million (Sky Sports).
Almost immediately, Chelsea reaped the rewards of their former manager’s firm but fair decision.
The Blues have looked an entirely different defensive unit with their new number one in-between the sticks.
Kepa coming to life
Thomas Tuchel’s takeover in January enhanced the club’s rear-guard fortress even further, with Mendy receiving further plaudits for his performances.
Yet, Kepa came back into his own under the German coach.
He has still been resigned to an understudy role, but with a much greater status within the squad.
The 27-year-old – once a villain for the Chelsea fans – became a hero in the UEFA Super Cup final, after he saved twice in the penalty shootout to earn Tuchel more silverware glory.
His spot-kick strengths have been called upon twice more this season, both in the Carabao Cup, both ensuring a victory for the Blues.
Gone to AFCON
Kepa will probably have a much greater part to play in the next few months, as Mendy prepares to compete at the Africa Cup of Nations between early January and February.
When asked if Chelsea could cope without their first choice during this period, Hislop’s answer was resolute
“Yeah. Kepa’s been very good since Mendy arrived,” said the former West Ham United goalkeeper.
“There is a huge difference, I’m not saying that (there’s not).
“The Kepa since Mendy arrived is not the Kepa pre-Mendy. He has been a very good number two.”
Permitted Mendy makes it to the AFCON final, Kepa could be given the primary gloves for nearly a month.
A tall order indeed for a player who has only started once in the Premier League since May.
However, if he can come out of the other side largely unscathed, Chelsea supporters will be indebted to their expensive ‘keeper.