Kepa Arrizabalaga is not the kind of man you stand in the way of… Just ask Maurizio Sarri.
Spain’s number one shirt has been David de Gea’s since Iker Casillas was dropped from the national side but Man United’s keeper is facing tough competition from Kepa.
Is the Chelsea man really good enough to oust De Gea? Or will he become Pepe Reina numero dos?
Heading into the 2018 World Cup, Neo from the Matrix would have had a tough time dislodging De Gea’s spot between the sticks for Spain.
He was more-or-less universally considered to be the best goalkeeper in the world with his cat-like reflexes guiding Man United to an unlikely second position in the Premier League.
But then the World Cup happened…
Following De Gea’s howler against Portugal and Spain’s premature exit in the Round of 16, questions were starting to be asked of the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper.
The World Cup was the beginning of the trouble for De Gea who didn’t make an appearance in Dream Team’s ‘Team of the Week’ until game week 20 last season.
After Christmas his form didn’t improve as he made errors in key games against Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League and Barcelona in the Champions League.
While De Gea had a disastrous season, Kepa’s first season in English football wasn’t without issues.
His famous stand-off with Sarri is as iconic as any moment in football over the past 12 months.
The world’s most expensive goalkeeper let in six at Man City and four at Bournemouth, all in the space of ten days before the row with his boss.
But after his dip in form in January, Kepa only grew stronger for the west London side.
His heroics in penalty shootouts against Spurs and Frankfurt saw Chelsea reach the final of two major competitions.
He ended the season with Chelsea in third place and with a Europa League medal to boast on international duty.
Kepa has played for Spain six times, conceding just the two goal.
Impressive until you look deeper and see the toughest tests were against Wales and Sweden.
Since Kepa’s international debut, De Gea has played in 14 games for Spain, conceding 20.
Most famously he let in three against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the World Cup and three against England in the Nations League.
So if national statistics are anything to go by, Kepa looks nailed on for the spot.
And it’s a similar story in terms of Premier League numbers too.
Kepa kept 14 cleen sheets for Chelsea, double the number that De Gea managed at Man United last season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s man did manage to make 3.21 saves per game, higher than Kepa’s 2.28, but that is more to do with the fact he had Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young as his last line of defence.
Kepa took more catches and saved one of the two penalties he faced in the League while De Gea couldn’t keep out any of the six that came his way.
More important than all of that is the fact Kepa ended the season on 144 Dream Team points with De Gea not reaching half of that total, finishing up way behind on 61.
That’s less than Neil Etheridge of Cardiff and Martin Dubravka of Newcastle.
De Gea’s stronghold on the number one spot this time last year was as strong as Iker Casillas’ ever was.
Spain’s World Cup winning captain made 167 caps for the national side, a record which he still holds today.
All the while he had pesky Pepe Reina, and at times Victor Valdes, nudging him for a chance as number one.
Reina made 36 appearances for his country, keeping an impressive 19 clean sheets.
Sadly for Reina, only six of his run-outs came in competitive fixtures.
He featured once in the Euros against Greece back in 2008 and then once in the World Cup against Australia in 2014.
So while Reina was constantly breathing down Casillas’ neck and occasionally took the jersey for two or three games on the bounce, he never had a full grasp of the number one shirt.
Working out if Kepa will go where Reina couldn’t will depend on De Gea’s form heading into next season.
If a World Cup started tomorrow you would imagine the number one spot would be his.
But how many more mistakes can he afford to make?