CHELSEA’S website was pushing Edouard Mendy replica shirts yesterday — but who gets the real No 1 jersey is the burning issue at Stamford Bridge.
The £24million new signing will not be involved at West Brom — but the club wasted no time in marketing the latest face to join Frank Lampard’s expanding squad.
Under-pressure Kepa Arrizabalaga will keep his place in goal at The Hawthorns but, after that, it is every man for himself.
According to boss Lampard, who gets the nod will come down to how they train next week.
With seven new signings in 2020 and no outgoings, the hardest job at Stamford Bridge is going to be trying to shut the dressing room door with so many players inside.
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And no position is more overstocked, and more confusing, than the last line of defence.
Lampard has four keepers now — Kepa, Mendy, Willy Caballero and the promising academy graduate Nathan Baxter.
This week, a fifth joined in when arguably Chelsea’s greatest-ever goalie, Petr Cech, dug out his gloves and scrum cap to try to solve the riddle between the sticks.
It is not difficult to point out Chelsea have struggled in the No 1 position. The tough part for boss Lampard is finding the solution.
Kepa, 25, is the world’s most expensive goalie at £71.6m, yet his confidence does not reflect that high price tag.
Veteran Caballero, 38, is enjoying the embers of a proud career and in the final year of his contract.
New-boy Mendy, 28, is either the bargain of the century from Rennes — or a relatively cheap import designed to put pressure on Kepa.
Homegrown Baxter, 21, was on the bench for Wednesday’s 6-0 Carabao Cup rout of Barnsley and is considered by many to be a star of the future — but still not yet ready to be unleashed fully.
Lampard admitted: “We’ve had problems in the goalkeeping area in the first two games of the season and at times last year.
“We can be very honest and open about that — and Kepa himself — in that search for the best performance levels.
“Mendy comes in to provide competition in that area.
“I don’t want to talk about No 1s, twos and threes at the minute because we’re not in that position.
“He’s just come into the club and now it’s about how we move forward and trying to get that performance level as best as it can be.
“It’ll be very important for the make-up of the goalkeepers at the club that the level is competitive and supportive.
“In the three personalities I’ve got, and I met Mendy briefly on Thursday, we have players that want to do their best for Chelsea Football Club and then we will follow that hopefully with the performances we demand at Chelsea.
“I will have conversations with all the goalkeepers and be very open about it and we’ll see the way to move forward.
“Having Petr train with the goalkeepers and bring his experience is a great thing.
“He still has great quality. I think he retired pretty young.
“He’s training and keeping fit, which I think is healthy for him and the goalkeepers in the squad.
“I think it’s as far as it goes. It’s something that’s really positive for the goalkeepers and Petr enjoys doing it.
“Why not get back and give that experience to the goalkeepers?”
Cech — who rejoined the Blues last summer in a newly-formed role as technical and performance advisor — revealed last month that he wants to work on Kepa and iron out his inconsistencies.
But at clubs like Chelsea there is very limited time to do that because of the insatiable hunger for success.
Kepa will be playing under more scrutiny than ever today, knowing that this might be his last chance to impress the boss.
Mendy is resting this weekend before being wheeled out as the competition. How that will ease Kepa’s nerves is anyone’s guess.
Lampard said: “All I ask from them is that they carry on with the right attitude.
“It doesn’t mean being happy not to play — but it does mean understanding being part of a group that’s trying to do something special.
"It needs a good mentality throughout the squad throughout the whole year.”
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