Kepa Arrizabalaga redemption gives Chelsea reason to dream as they head to Club World Cup final – Anita Abayomi

Kepa Arrizabalaga is living proof to not give up on a player too early.

Written off, abused on social media and booed by Chelsea fans. The Spaniard has overcome all the adversity, and now he takes Chelsea into the FIFA Club World Cup final.

It is no secret that Arrizabalaga has had a tough time getting back on trustworthy terms with the Chelsea fanbase. Since his debut season, it’s been a difficult ride for him, yet he has shown resilience. We could be overstating his growth as a player. Only time will tell.

Following his stunning performance against Al-Hilal in the Club World Cup Final, the competition just got interesting.

It was a shot-stopping madness for the last 15 minutes of Chelsea’s match against Al Hilal. Shots from Mohamed Kanno and Odion Ighalo sent Arrizabalaga into superman mode, having to leap to defend the lead. His goal-keeping heroics helped the Blues avoid an embarrassing 3rd place match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Arrizabalaga was in good company with Thiago Silva directly in front of him, assisting in shot-stopping with his body. The Brazilian’s positioning was second to none, once again proving that his age is not a contributing factor to his form.

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The absence of Edouard Mendy has highlighted the growth in Arrizabalaga. He’s still currently the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and had to bear the burden of that title. The consistent blunders in his first two seasons at Chelsea, coupled with his descent towards Maurizio Sarri in the 2019 Carabao Cup final, had written him off.

Fans remained sceptical once Mendy had left for his African Cup of Nation duties. Whilst Arrizabalaga had pulled off some excellent penalty shoot-out performances, his effectiveness during a football match was still in question. Could he withstand the pressure, will his blunders cost us matches and is he a good enough shot-stopper?

He’s been tasked with facing these questions on the pitch for consecutive matches in January. We saw him grow in confidence with every game, leading up to the Club World Cup semi-final.

Some players may find it difficult to come back into a team after being openly demoted. However, what makes a great athlete is a person who rises above adversity to prove their critics wrong. Arrizabalaga showcased what he is capable of and why he should no longer be hailed as the forgotten keeper.

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It’s safe to say that despite Mendy’s return from AFCON, Arrizabalaga deserves to start in the final against Palmeiras. He could be the key to stopping Chelsea from creating a 2012 deja vu disaster against another Brazilian team.

I’m confident enough in the Spaniard for him to keep his adopted first-choice spot for the time being and truly give Mendy some healthy competition to work with. Chelsea has two more than capable goalkeepers at their disposal, and I’m delighted.

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