Edouard Mendy restored order to Chelsea’s goalkeeper crisis on the night Petr Cech was named in their Premier League squad with a fine display against Sevilla… it looks a long way back for Kepa Arrizabalaga under Frank Lampard
- Technical advisor Cech, 38, was named in squad despite retiring in 2019
- Chelsea insisted he was included as ’emergency cover’ due to Covid-19 crisis
- The bizarre move will have done nothing for the much-maligned Arrizabalaga
- Mendy kept a clean sheet in a solid defensive performance against Sevilla
- Chelsea 0-0 Sevilla: Mendy keeps impressive clean sheet in stalemate
First came the Champions League teams and there was Edouard Mendy, in goal against Sevilla having won his scramble to recover from an injury he picked up on international duty with Senegal.
Then, with little more than an hour to kick-off, Chelsea revealed their Premier League squad would include Petr Cech, club legend, technical performance advisor, amateur drummer and occasional ice-hockey goaltender.
Then came the clean sheet and much more solid defensive display. Spare a thought for Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Edouard Mendy kept a clean sheet in a solid defensive performance by Chelsea
Cech retired in May 2019, after playing for Arsenal and conceding four while losing in the Europa League final against Chelsea.
At 38, he is eight months younger than Willy Caballero and may well have spent the last year or so wondering whether he had hung up the gloves and protective headgear too soon.
Chelsea insisted Cech’s inclusion in the squad on a non-contract basis was purely as ’emergency cover’ and prompted by ‘unprecedented conditions currently caused by the Covid-19 crisis’.
He plans to keep himself fit and train separately to the other goalkeepers at the club, just in case the virus forces them all out of action.
The goalkeeper made a fine early save when a header by Nemanja Gudelj clipped Kurt Zouma
It was a plan first mooted inside Stamford Bridge before Mendy arrived for £22million from Rennes in September, because Cech looked in good shape when he worked with the ‘keepers.
And a theory reinforced when Ukraine were forced to put a 45-year-old coach on the bench in a friendly against France, because three keepers had been ruled out by coronavirus.
There is not shortage of goalkeeping experience on the staff, with Henrique Hilario coaching the first-team ‘keepers and Carlo Cudicini coaching and liaising with the squad, and Christophe Lollichon as the head of the goalkeeping department.
You can’t move for veteran ‘keepers in the place. They could command their own car park at the training ground and yet the position remains a nagging problem.
Frank Lampard’s patience has worn out with Kepa, who was supposed to be Chelsea’s number one for a decade or more when he signed for a world record fee of £72million from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.
Mendy returned to the team with a calm and confident performance on Tuesday night
On Saturday, having seen his team leak three goals against Southampton, Lampard was not particularly protective of Kepa, who was recalled in the absence of Mendy and was at least partially at fault for one of the three goals.
Lampard went further on the eve of this game, reacting to criticism of his team’s defensive record with statistics showing only Manchester City had allowed fewer shots at goal in the Premier League.
There’s nothing wrong with the defensive system. That was the point. And captain Cesar Azpilicueta amplified the point, saying it felt as if they had to score three or four in a game.
Then came Mendy. Then came Cech. Then came the clean sheet.
Kepa and Caballero, among a dozen substitutes against Sevilla, settled side-by-side into socially-distanced seating arrangements near the front of the East Stand.
Mendy returned to the team with a calm and confident performance, and made a fine early save against Sevilla when a header by Nemanja Gudelj clipped Kurt Zouma and deflected towards goal.
It helped to have Thiago Silva back in the centre of defence. Chelsea had to settle for a point against experienced European campaigners. They did not look like a team limbering up to go deep into the competition but the defensive improvements will bring Lampard great satisfaction.