Chelsea, this season, were expected to sign the most sterling exception, Ajax Amsterdam’s Andre Onana. They didn’t; instead, in a summer when Russian owner Roman Abramovich has set out to build a Chelsea team as strong as any of his 17-year era, the Blues have snapped up Rennes’ Edouard Mendy. They could have brought in still another highly-rated black goalkeeper from Ligue 1, Lille’s Mike Maignan, but for a price tag deemed too huge.
For £22 million, and aged 28, Mendy is neither the most expensive nor youngest signing Chelsea have made in this window. He certainly isn’t the most high-profile of the lot, and could even be deemed a low-risk purchase, yet the Senegal international would likely be subjected to the greatest scrutiny — and it’s through no fault of his, really.
Chelsea have had goalkeeping problems despite splashing a world-record £71.6 million on Kepa Arrizabalaga in August 2018. Arrizabalaga was supposed to be a replacement for erstwhile No.1 Thibaut Courtois, a long-term investment (secured for all of seven years, which, admittedly, sounds absolutely hilarious now, but nobody was laughing then) and a marquee presence to banish any feelings soured by the big Belgian’s acrimonious departure to Real Madrid.
But, of course, Arrizabalaga has proven no like-for-like sub, has he? If anything, he has turned out more like a downgrade, an itch that gets a little worse with every game. Things weren’t exactly smooth between Arrizabalaga and Maurizio Sarri, the manager who brought him in; under Lampard, Sarri’s successor, the quality of Arrizabalaga’s performances have only continued to dwindle and grate. The latest episode in the 25-year-old’s series of horror shows aired on Sunday, at home to champions Liverpool, when he delivered a gift — all wrapped and tied up — to Sadio Mane for the strike that crushed Chelsea’s hopes of recovering a one-goal deficit.Well, we’ll see… whether he is in to actually take error-prone Arrizabalaga’s place, or merely to remind him that Lampard has other — even if ‘cheaper’ — options. Whatever the case, Mendy would certainly have to outdo Arrizabalaga — not the hardest job in the world, frankly — but also every other non-black goalkeeper out there. If Mendy has, indeed, taken the place of Onana at Chelsea, he might as well take the Cameroonian’s advice, too.
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