Chelsea’s defensive problems have been very clear in the Premier League this season. They come to the fore in just about every game for the club and let them down. Goalkeeping issues saw Frank Lampard drop Kepa against Leicester City, but an error from stand-in goalkeeper Willy Caballero saw them get held to a 2-2 draw. Many Chelsea fans were glued to their smart devices keeping track of the live football score and had their heads in their hands after yet another error.
It has been a real problem area for Lampard- the defence. Many fans have been clear about they need a new goalkeeper about some months after they spent big on Kepa to sign him from Athletic Bilbao. If they do need another new man between the sticks, they should look no further than Lazio’s Thomas Strakosha.
Strakosha presents a case of a player who has been under-the-radar in the Serie A for a while now. At 24, the Albanian has established himself as a regular for a big Italian club and is also silently one of the goalkeepers in the league.
This season has seen the biancocelesti come close to challenging for the Scudetto, Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto and Sergey Milinkovic-Savic have got loads of attention. But characters like Strakosha and defender Francesco Acerbi haven’t really got the credit they deserve.
The Greece-born Albanian has made 28 appearances in all competitions so far, playing behind a side that plays in a direct counter-attacking style of football under Simone Inzaghi. The Eagles usually see Milinkovic-Savic as a midfield target-man. The Serbian takes part in transitions, often finding himself with an out ball in an advanced position.
Because of that, Strakosha plays an average of 12.9 long-balls per game. In that regard, he has a 50 percent accuracy as he completed 6.5 of them. Strakosha is very good when it comes to short-passing. He has completed 15 short-passes per game this season, missing only 0.4 of them per game.
This season, he has made three saves per game in Serie A, with 1.4 of them coming in the penalty area. Playing behind the second-best defence in the league does that, but Strakosha’s strong build makes him a very reliable man between the sticks. He is confident in punching the ball and a tall frame allows him to do that.
His teammate and Belgian goalkeeper Silvio Proto has already talked of how he exudes confidence. Proto told LaLazioSiamoNoi: I’ve never seen a strong goalkeeper like him, behind a group with so much quality. The Albanian is young, big physically, explosive … He has everything you need to make a career at the top.”
That is very much the sort of goalkeeper the 24-year-old is. He’s brave and a complete shot-stopper in many ways. Like Liverpool’s Alisson, he doesn’t need to make too many sensational saves. His positioning and smartness is good enough to make up for that.
So far this season, Chelsea have underperformed on their XGA by a huge 6.27. When they should have ideally let in 27.73 goals, they have let in 34. Kepa’s inconsistencies have been a reason for that, bar the lack of a top-class central defender.
Kepa did cost them big money and he can still improve considering how he’s still 25. But he hasn’t shown enough for the club and the fans to trust him in the long-term. His errors come up on a consistent basis, as evident from games against Everton and Arsenal. They lead to goals, leading to the side dropping vital points.
If he wants to be the club’s preferred long-term option, he has to start proving that he’s worth the wait. Or the club can go and try to sign a player like Strakosha, who can prove to be an upgrade on the Spaniard.