Can Kepa recover and rebuild his Chelsea career?

The young Spanish goalkeeper wears a nervous scowl as scrutiny over his Premier League worth intensifies with every match.

Every added ounce of pressure and expectation draws another howler for the critics to feast on. Every mistake intensifies the pressure.

It’s a vicious circle; every professional footballer’s waking nightmare.

The season is 2011-12, the keeper David de Gea.

Fast forward nine seasons and the comparisons between Kepa Arrizabalaga and the Manchester United number one are there for all to see.

De Gea arrived in the summer of 2011 from Atletico Madrid, becoming at 20 the world’s second-most expensive goalkeeper, brought in to fill the boots of Edwin van der Sar with a hefty price tag to prove and a daunting predecessor to follow.

Kepa’s transfer burden was a great deal heavier – a staggering world record of £71.6m. Handling that fee at the age of 23, while looking to replace the experienced Thibaut Courtois was always going to be a big ask.

Perhaps most worryingly for Kepa, the man Courtois replaced is Petr Cech, who is now Chelsea’s performance advisor and was heavily involved in the decision to bring in Edouard Mendy.

If anyone should know a good goalkeeper when they see one, it’s Cech.

“Petr was important,” Lampard said on Tuesday. “It’s a particular position and he has had a big say and was very instrumental.

“It is the hardest position, because of the individual nature of it. I have to be sympathetic to that point. Last year I changed with a few times, it’s a different thought process. We are always striving for the best performance.

“Competition is a regular thing. We have brought Mendy in for that competition. It’s in everyone’s hands to get into the squad.”

Lampard has partially-backed Kepa. But using Lampard’s words, it doesn’t feel like it’s in Kepa’s hands just at the moment.

He’s dropped a clanger in both games so far, deploying those expensive hands way too slowly to keep out Leandro Trossard’s 25-yard shot in the win over Brighton and, more glaringly, dallying in possession to gift Sadio Mane the striker’s second goal in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.

De Gea, an instant flop

In de Gea’s case, the tone was set by mistakes right from debut.

The pressure was so immediate that, incredibly, sports writers were already questioning his suitability and place before his first August in England was up.

Several times that campaign he was replaced by Anders Lindegaard – the rising star handed a chastening battle with his deputy for first choice.

Despite many impressive displays and important stops, to his critics, de Gea remained synonymous with calamity and clanger well into his second season at Old Trafford. But we know what followed.

While the story now appears to have come full circle for De Gea – and Blues fans will still look fondly at his generosity in last season’s FA Cup semi-final – the Spaniard will be remembered in his pomp as one of the best keepers to grace the English top flight.

A Premier League winner in his second season and often the only obstacle from United suffering greater ignominy in the post-Ferguson era.

It seemed generous amounts of patience and unshakeable faith – or perhaps in Ferguson’s case, fear of a hairdryer blast – had transformed a reputed blunderer into a world-beater.

Hope for Kepa redemption?

Is there any hope that this fairytale could still come true for Kepa?

Chelsea’s imminent outlay on Edouard Mendy would scream otherwise.

Having a £71m keeper on the bench could be embarrassing for the club and an unwanted distraction, particularly for Mendy.

The oft-repeated fee is regularly used as a weapon to bash the 25-year-old, as well as Chelsea’s transfer business.

When you cost that much money every mishap will inevitably be magnified. But perhaps Kepa’s fee should occasionally be used as a reminder of his talent – a pointer to the performances which earned calls to represent his country and to be considered worthy of a world-record price tag.

As a paying punter, it is understandably hard to adopt that view when your keeper continue to leak bad goals into his third season.

Kepa has predictably become easy prey for the pundit pile-on, and there have been plenty of those gleefully weighing in – former Blues striker Chris Sutton even suggesting with a wink that Kepa had pushed him off the top of Chelsea’s list of worst-ever signings.

Sutton cost £10m and managed just three goals in 39 appearances in a hopeless single-season stay in 1999-2000.

It’s easier and more convenient to pigeonhole a failing player rather than find reasons why things are going wrong and solutions to fix them. However, it’s not a cost-effective approach, with the Blues set to lose heavily in their investment should he leave now.

But then this is a league which casts aside eyewatering sums without a backwards glance.

As a keeper, confidence is everything, and this has clearly become a primary issue in Kepa’s slide, undermined more as speculation mounted over Mendy’s arrival.

The greatest number ones generally have an arrogance to match their shot-stopping, and while de Gea developed that, Kepa’s character is in doubt.

Three years of patience wears thin

He would appear to have blown too many chances of redemption at Stamford Bridge, and his nerve looks shot.

Lampard was adamant his keeper would be offered support after his match-defining mistake in the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, but public statements do not always reflect boardroom strategy or dressing room talk.

It seems likely that patience – and three seasons is an eternity in Premier League terms – has worn too thin for his Chelsea career to be salvaged.

But perhaps his increasing erraticism isn’t helped by the players he has in front of him.

How galling would it be for Blues fans to see the Spaniard rediscover his true class the moment he departs?

As it stands, Arrizabalaga will be remembered in England for his miskicks and fumbles, and his fatally-timed revolt against Maurizio Sarri in the EFL Cup final.

But if you believe in logic-defying fairytales – and let’s face it, this is the Premier League and there are precious few of those – could his legacy still be different?

In a decade to come, could we be comparing Kepa to David De Gea in terms of a golden resurrection, or just his mistakes?