helsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has praised goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga following his string of sensational displays since winning back the No1 spot at Stamford Bridge.
Kepa had to play back-up to Edouard Mendy after losing the confidence of previous managers and his team-mates.
But the £71.6million signing from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 has played every minute under new boss Graham Potter and is in the form of his life.
He could not keep out Casemiro’s late header as Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United on Saturday but Azpilicueta said: “I am really happy for him.
“Of course, he has had tough moments but the strength from him is to always stay positive, to train hard every day and we know as a player you want to play all the time but the manager makes the decision.
“As a goalkeeper, it is a unique position where I cannot say [much about it] because they train on their own a lot of times. They spend a lot of time together so it is a very rare position with their own pressure. They are the last man in goal and every mistake is very watchable and a lot of people criticise them.
Cesar Azpilicueta is delighted to see compatriot Kepa Arrizabalaga bounce back at Chelsea
“I am very happy for him, it shows his mentality to be strong, keep working hard and wait for his chance. We have a fantastic group of goalkeepers with Edou [Mendy], Betts [Marcus Bettinelli] and that’s the joy of our team to have these guys every day.
“Whoever plays, everyone is 100 per cent and the day after everyone is trying to help. We are very lucky to have an amazing group of goalkeepers.”
Kepa is hoping for a recall to the Spain squad for the World Cup but faces immense competition from Premier League trio David De Gea, Robert Sanchez and David Raya behind current No1 Unai Simon.
Azpilicueta stopped short of saying Kepa should be first-choice for Spain but thinks he should be in the conversation at least.
The Chelsea defender said: “Yes, both him and David [are playing well]. They have both been in England for a long time. We are lucky to have very good goalkeepers in Spain.”
The 33-year-old was a huge part of Chelsea’s clean sheet run, which finally came to an end after over 10 hours when Casemiro equalised in the 94th minute on Saturday.
Azpilicueta is happy with how Chelsea are defending and thinks the attacking fluidity will come.
He said: “Everyone would like to play amazing stuff from the start to the end, play amazing football, control the game, always win 3-0 but sometimes you have to go through moments where the performance is not that good but you find the fighting spirit altogether.
“We want to improve. We are the first ones who want to improve because if you play better then you have more chances to win games, we have to keep going.”