Kepa Arrizabalaga made his Chelsea debut at Huddersfield, just days after becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in history.
The 23-year-old signed a seven-year deal after completing his world-record £72.1million move from Athletic Bilbao as the Blues replaced Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois.
Kepa was thrust straight into the startling line-up on Saturday at Huddersfield and Press Association Sport’s Simon Peach looked at how he got on in Chelsea’s 3-0 win.
Kepa did not make a save of note on his debut. Maurizio Sarri’s side bossed possession from the outset in West Yorkshire, where it took 20 minutes for Alex Pritchard to muster a shot on target – an attempt that was straight down the barrel and comfortably stopped.
It was Huddersfield’s only shot on target in the opening period, but Kepa was relieved to see a Steve Mounie header off the post and eventually get cleared from danger. That was the biggest threat to Chelsea’s goal, with the Spain international comfortably dealing with headers from Philip Billing and Laurent Depoitre.
At a time when there is an increasing need for goalkeepers to be capable footballers as well as shot-stoppers, Kepa looked composed on the ball but proved inaccurate with a number of his long passes. “How much?” screamed a Huddersfield fan when Kepa slashed a sixth-minute clearance, while his preference for a clipped ball to the hallway line was regularly cut out. Clearly capable on the ball, Kepa will need to work out what passes work best in English football.
Quick off his line when Mounie attempted to latch onto a through-ball early on, Huddersfield surprisingly did not use their physicality to put the new Chelsea goalkeeper under pressure. Balls tended to go away from Kepa than towards him, meaning he did not have to dominate the box and so much as claim a cross until the stroke of half-time.
The trip to the John Smith’s Stadium could well have been a baptism of fire given his inexperience and Huddersfield’s strength in the air. Yet Town were unable to turn promising moments into genuine threats and failed to give Kepa anything to worry about. It was as comfortable a debut as he could have wished for as N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Pedro goals sealed a 3-0 triumph.
Pep Guardiola speaks highly of new Gunners boss Unai Emery but won’t be pulling any punches at the Emirates Stadium.
Here’s a couple of key tactics the Catalan may utilise to secure a winning start.
Unlike his spell at Barcelona, Guardiola doesn’t encourage his full-backs to operate as auxiliary wingers at City. Instead, they were often seen tucking in to make sure the Citizens always had the numerical advantage in midfield.
That also serves to guard against the counter-attack – a ploy Arsenal will no doubt use. Walker’s forays forward last season often saw him bombing down the inside channels – ‘underlapping’ the winger if you will – and linking up with team-mates around the box. In the fit Benjamin Mendy, City have a similar if not greater threat on the opposite side.
With Arsenal working overtime to track midfield runners, the late runs of City’s full-backs can do the damage instead. Walker may get the opportunity to overlap more often on Sunday though with Riyad Mahrez cutting in from the right.
SWITCH OF PLAY
Guardiola likes to keep his side’s passes limited to within three metres during their build-up play and when that sort of possession is focus on one side, it sucks the opposition in, leaving them vulnerable to the switch.
With Mahrez operating from the right flank and Bernardo from the right side of central midfield, the switch to the left is very much on.
Leroy Sane has developed a knack for darting in behind the defence and could be played clean through in these scenarios while Mendy’s desire to get forward could see him get on the end of these dangerous switch of plays as well.
Unai Emery takes charge of his first competitive game as Gunners boss and has a battle of wits against Pep Guardiola first up.
Here’s a look at the key tactics he could employ.
TORRIERA AS THE ANCHORMAN
Lucas Torreira will be key in this fixture having excelled as the holding midfielder in 4-2-3-1 systems for Sampdoria and also for Uruguay at the World Cup. The 22-year-old’s ability to cover large areas of space and win the ball back will be crucial as he’ll have to keep an eye on both David and Bernardo Silva.
He also offers an out-ball for Arsenal’s centre-backs to help cope with City’s high-press. Another byproduct of Torreira’s withdrawn role is he could bring the best out of Granit Xhaka who looked far more comfortable leaving the anchorman duties to Valon Behrami in Switzerland’s set up.
Finally, the Uruguayan’s distribution will help launch counter-attacks while utilising the pace of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the break.
Some have called for a change of formation to fit both Lacazette and Aubameyang into the starting line-up to face City but Emery is unlikely to meddle with his side’s balance against the might of the Premier League champions. Given the need to operate on the counter-attack though, the duo’s pace is a real asset.
The Frenchman has looked out of his element in wide areas, though, and Aubameyang may therefore feature on the left flank instead. However, the potential to frequently swap positions and leave defenders scrambling is appealing.
You can see it now – Lacazette peeling wide to make space, Aubameyang’s darting diagonal run in behind and a clever reverse through ball from Mesut Ozil would all make for a pretty picture.