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Kepa revival an example to at-risk players

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Chelsea boss Graham Potter believes Kepa Arrizabalaga‘s transformation should serve as an example to other players who fear their career at the club is at risk.

The 28-year-old became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when the Blues paid Athletic Club Bilbao £71.4 million in 2018 but he fell out of favour under both Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel.

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Sources told ESPN in February that Chelsea were ready for the Spain international’s departure but the club is now under new ownership after the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital takeover with Potter also replacing Tuchel as head coach.

Kepa has started all six matches since Potter took charge last month, keeping four clean sheets, and the former Brighton manager said: “He’s a human being, a player, and they want to play, to contribute and he’s doing that.

“It is brilliant for him and I think it is a nice example of everybody that sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to suffer in life sometimes.

“Things aren’t ideal or perfect but I must admit I’ve been really impressed with his character, his personality. Very professional. Understand the game really well, takes responsibility so it is nice when those type of people get the rewards which is a reward for their hard work and effort.”

Denis Zakaria is perhaps one of those players who could draw a lesson from Kepa’s renaissance.

The 25-year-old is yet to make a single appearance for the club after agreeing a season-long loan from Juventus on deadline day.

However, Potter played down suggestions the Switzerland international could leave the club in January.

“There’s no decision been made at all on that,” Potter said.

“Denis has been in the group, he’s been training well. He’s ready to help the team. Obviously there is competition for places in that area but there’s no talk of anything. He’s an important member of the team. He’s been patient, he’s been trying to help the team from the side, waiting for his chance.”

Chelsea are unbeaten under Potter and will look to extend that record at Brentford on Wednesday night.

They will face striker Ivan Toney in prime form after a brace in Friday’s 2-0 win over Brighton took his goal tally to eight for the season.

“The way they play fits the players they have. They are very organised around that,” Potter said.

“They clearly know what they are doing in all the phases. Set-plays are very dangerous, Ivan Toney as a centre-forward is in his way as dangerous as anybody in the league. They do that well.”

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