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If Edouard Mendy was hoping to use the Qatar World Cup to escape the negativity at Chelsea and rediscover some confidence, his opening performance against the Netherlands only increased the harsh spotlight.
Caught in no man’s land for Cody Gakpo’s header to give Holland the lead in the final 10 minutes was scrutinised, then the error was compounded by a fumbled stop to a Memphis Depay effort heading into the path of Davy Klaassen to make it 2-0.
The two errors dearly cost Senegal a valuable point in Group A in what was a pretty forgettable contest until the final 10 minutes. For Chelsea and Graham Potter, the concerns over Mendy will run much deeper.
2022 has seen a sharp downward turn in his once immaculate form. The keeper who helped transform Chelsea’s defence after his £22m signing from Rennes in 2020 is no longer the trusted first-choice at Stamford Bridge after some high-profile errors and losing his spot to Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Kepa’s unexpected comeback into form, coupled with doubts over Mendy, has suddenly made his once-settled place at Chelsea look pretty fragile. Now heading into 2023, questions have arisen over the future of Chelsea’s goalkeeping position before the January transfer window.
Mendy’s contract situation also further heightens the doubt over his future, reportedly rejecting a new offer over the summer before he lost first-spot. Kepa is expected to retain his place when Chelsea return to action against Bournemouth on the 27th of December after the World Cup.
There are four potential solutions to Mendy’s slump in form and the return of uncertainty between the sticks for the Blues. But given the uncertainty across the squad for Graham Potter, this will only increase the questions facing Chelsea’s head coach over the winter break.
The first solution is to persist with Mendy and hope he rediscovers the form that made him a successful transfer for Chelsea. As Kepa has proved, completely writing off players can be flippant and trying to retroactively claim that Mendy was never that good is a disingenuous argument, for a period, he genuinely was one of Europe’s best. But obviously, this route is in itself a risk.
Entrusting Kepa with top spot is another route Chelsea have already started going down. The 28-year-old made some outstanding stops and looked comfortable in Potter’s possession-based approach. For the short term, this is the most likely route, given Kepa’s familiarity with the role and the need for investment in other areas during the January window.
Gabriel Slonina’s arrival in January after his £12m switch from Chicago Fire throws a wildcard into the mix, although the 18-year-old would likely benefit from a loan compared to sitting on the bench for the rest of this season.
The final option looks ahead to next summer and the prospect of Chelsea’s new owners investing in a more substantial first choice which could feasibly happen. Porto’s Diogo Costa and AC Milan’s Mike Maignan have both been named in recent days as potential targets who have impressed this season.
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