Chelsea: Four options for a new keeper who could right the Blues’ goal deficit

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Richarlison of Everton scores his team's first goal past Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on December 07, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Richarlison of Everton scores his team's first goal past Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on December 07, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) /

Chelsea have struggled to score goals but they are suffering much more from the excess they concede. Any of four options to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga are worth a deep look if necessary.

Chelsea, after having an excellent start to the season, have been undergoing a midseason malaise, the kind of which has been prevalent for the past few seasons. This season it can be put down to profligate finishing and less than stellar defensive work. The club’s poor form at home has added to this problem.

But the underlying stats make recent performances somewhat baffling. In the attacking phase, Chelsea have taken the second most shots per game (16.7), while in the defensive phase, they have conceded the second fewest number of shots (8.6). Only Manchester City leads them in both categories.

They have also massively underperformed at home, where Chelsea were expected to score 28 goals compared to the 16 goals they actually scored.

This is a stunning underperformance of xG. Had they matched that expectation they would have nine more points at home this season. This implies Chelsea suffer from bad finishing (perhaps due to less experience in attack) or extraordinary goalkeeping by their opponents. The expected goals stat also implies things should balance out as the season rolls on.

But the defensive stat of conceding the second fewest number of shots point to a more pressing and solvable problem. Chelsea have conceded 32 goals in 24 games: 1.33 goals per game. These are bottom half of the Premier League stats.

Chelsea have conceded fewer shots because they dominate possession in the majority of the games. The many goals from the fewer shots have come from lapses in concentration among the back four, the lack of a settled back four and some goalkeeping howlers.

Chelsea will be looking to upgrade at goalkeeper as well if Kepa Arrizabalaga continues to have blunders in his game.

Arrizabalaga has a save percentage of 53.6%, which is the worst in the league and among the seven worst in Europe’s top seven leagues. Goalkeepers generally overperform their xG conceded, but this is the depths of bad goalkeeping. This stat says that, of the 8.6 average shots Chelsea faces per game, if even half those shots are on target Arrizabalaga is liable to concede two goals per game.

This can be attributed to a loss of confidence as well as the pressure of being the world’s most expensive keeper but, when Chelsea bought him, he was nothing more than a La Liga average goalkeeper. He right now looks like the panic buy he was purported to be.

Chelsea, being the club they are, will be looking to cut their losses and move him on. Here are few options based on important goalkeeping metrics and the absolutely essential eyeball test.

1. Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid

Jan Oblak is among the top five keepers in the world. During his time at Atletico, he’s kept more clean sheets than he has conceded goals.

At 6’1″, his reflexes are truly supreme. This season he has a 75% save percentage from facing 56 shots. He’s also conceded just the 14 goals in 21 league games. He has slightly underperformed with a 12.2 PSxG (Post Shot on Target expected Goals).

He’s not a good fit at Chelsea as he is part of a more defensive team which does not play out from the back. Being a part of a Diego Simeone team can actually detract from his overall greatness, as Simeone’s defences do not give away easy shots on target. He averages 21.8 passes per game, which is Premier League average, but has a dreadful pass completion rate of 54.9%. He also has a propensity to hoof it long as demonstrated by his average pass length of 47.5 meters.

His £108 million release clause would also deter Chelsea, as they will be looking to sign Sancho and a left-back in the summer.

2. Alex Meret, Napoli

Meret has been very good in the Serie A since his time at Udinese. He’s had a down year after his breakthrough campaign at Naples last season. He has a save percentage of 61.1% from 54 shots against.

He’s 6’3″, so the physicality of the Premier league won’t be a problem. He is quite a good passer with 22.4 passes completed at a pass accuracy of 81.2%.

Since the player revolt at Napoli, the 22-year old could go for £40-50 million. But Chelsea should be aware of a poor discipline record, and not being particularly good at long passing or claiming crosses.

3. Gianluigi Donnarumma, AC Milan

Donnarumma made his first team debut in the AC Milan at the tender age of 16. He’s still only 20 years old, and has he been Milan’s saviour on multiple occasions. He has a save percentage of 71.3% from a higher volume of 87 shots. He’s strong at keeping out penalties, has excellent reflexes and has a big frame at 6’5″.

He also completes 25.8 passes per game, more than Ederson, at an adequate pass accuracy of 70.7%.

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He will be in the final year of his contract in June of this year, so the opportunity to get him at a cut-price is very likely given the financial problems plaguing Milan. They would not want to lose one of their star assets on a free transfer.

His main negatives are a tendency to punch balls and rashly rushing out of his area.

4. Thomas Strakosha, Lazio

Strakosha has been consistently very good in Serie A. He’s kept Lazio in the game many times over the years.

He has a save percentage of 74.7% from 75 shots. He is involved in play with an average of 27.7 passes, 6.4 long balls and a pass accuracy of 76%.

He also possesses a PSxG of 22, from which he’s conceded 19 goals. He’s good at saving penalties, and possesses a PSxG +/- of +4, which is higher than that of Alisson’s +3.1. He could be available for under £40 million.

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He’s 6’4″ and is 24 years old. On the downside, he does not claim crosses very confidently and is as much an unknown quantity as any player in top-flight football can ever be.