Chelsea should not let Willy Caballero extension block young goalkeepers

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Willy Caballero of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Willy Caballero of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

Chelsea’s serial bobbling of their goalkeeper and homegrown player situations are converging as they look to give Willy Caballero a one-year extension. If they extend Caballero, they cannot overlook their young goalkeepers as they did this season.

If only Chelsea could combine Willy Caballero and Rob Green into one person they could solve so many of their problems. Caballero, unlike Green, can be trusted with a Premier League game. Green, unlike Caballero, is homegrown. Both men are extremely mature and experienced, as players in general and as goalkeepers in particular. Either would be valuable as a training partner and mentor for the younger goalkeepers, and as competition for a young backup keeper. But as a pair, one is redundant.

Chelsea used Rob Green to fill a homegrown slot this season. By doing so, they jammed up their goalkeeper development pipeline. One result is the likely loss of Marcin Bulka. Bulka’s contract expires this June. He is reportedly uninterested in signing Chelsea’s standard long-term deal, with the implied lengthy tour of duty in the loan army.

If the Blues keep both Caballero and Rob Green next season, even if Bulka leaves, they will still be closing the door on Jamal Blackman and Jamie Cumming. Releasing Green, though, is no guarantee of a youth player ascending to the squad. The Telegraph’s article on the Caballero extension implies Chelsea would try to sign someone to replace Green if he does not stay with the club.

Blackman will have recovered from his broken tibia by the summer. At age 25 with over 100 first team appearances, Blackman may have much to gain from being Arrizabalaga’s backup. He is ready to be the starter in his forever home and Chelsea should make that transfer this summer. On the other hand, he may be willing to take the Asmir Begovic route and be a backup through his mid-20s. However, to make this worthwhile for all involved, Chelsea would need to guarantee him the domestic cups and perhaps even the European group stages, in addition to being the Premier League backup. This would require dropping Willy Caballero to the third goalkeeper position.

Jamie Cumming is a regular starter for the Premier League 2 side at age 19. His half-cryptic, half-banter tweet last Wednesday implied he was ready to take advantage of the Kepa Arrizabalaga drama to come alongside Caballero. He may be willing to stay another year with the PL2 side.

The different career profiles of goalkeepers grants him a different perspective than other young players sizing up their prospects. However, if he feels he has a chance at breaking through to the first team only to see the club extend two players nearly twice his age, he may decide to follow Bulka out the door before things get any worse.

Chelsea do not need two elder statesmen goalkeepers on the training ground, particularly not at the expense of several young prospects. Willy Caballero should be helping develop Arrizabalaga and at least one of Marcin Bulka, Jamal Blackman or Jamie Cumming. He should also be competing with that one for the starting job in the domestic cups and European dead rubbers, and to be in the matchday squad.

Blackman would also count towards Chelsea’s homegrown quota. Bulka and Cumming are exempt from such formalities given their age. But if the club can keep them around, before long they will bolster the homegrown contingent and “free up” a spot elsewhere in the roster.

Predicted XI vs. Fulham. Surely time for some rotation. light

As we’ve written many times before, the ideal goalkeeping depth chart is to have one very young player and one very old player as your backup goalkeepers. One to learn, one to teach, two to compete for the spot on the bench and occasional outing between the posts.

It’s a typical piece of Chelsea’s short-sightedness that they perfunctorily stash an aging homegrown player in their third goalkeeper position, rather than using that position to develop a young player who might actually someday take the pitch as a homegrown Blue. Every time they fall back on an expedient solution to their homegrown fumbles, they deny themselves a long-term solution that keeps with the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

At the very least, using that slot to develop and – ye gods – play a young backup goalkeeper will raise his transfer value for when he is ready to escape from Kepa Arrizabalaga’s shadow.

Three things to look for vs. Fulham: Bounces, Sarri's comfort, Kepa vs. Willy (Part II). dark. Next

Willy Caballero signing a one-year extension is not a bad thing, but Chelsea will find a way to make it one.