Chelsea head coach Graham Potter has heaped praise on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for the character that he has shown at Stamford Bridge.
Since the Blues paid a then club-record fee of £71.6m to sign Arrizabalaga in 2018, the stopper has made 131 appearances in all competitions.
However, the 28-year-old has been restricted to just 14 outings in the Premier League since the start of 2020-21, a consequence of the form of Edouard Mendy.
Although there was widespread speculation regarding a potential exit in the summer, the Spain international remained in West London and recaptured the first-team position between the sticks.
In sharp contrast to many of his previous performances, Arrizabalaga has kept four clean sheets in a row, his display against Aston Villa on Sunday one of the most impressive of his career.
When quizzed on the number-one role at his pre-match press conference ahead of the upcoming Brentford fixture, Potter feels that he has no decision to make given the level of the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper’s performances.
Potter said: “I always think it’s better to let football decide and Kepa has done really well. He has been supported fantastically by Edou [Edouard Mendy] and Bets [Marcus Bettinelli] and they’ve provided good competition.
“But Kepa’s form is really pleasing for everybody, especially him. So it’s nice we’ve got competition in that area because we need that in the team. We need to push each other and it’s how players get better.”
The Englishman was later asked about the magnitude of Arrizabalaga’s return to form, suggesting that he had shown qualities that should make him a role model after bouncing back from disappointments, mistakes and a lack of confidence.
Potter added: “He’s a human being, a player, and they want to play and contribute. And he’s doing that, so it’s brilliant for him. It’s a nice example for everybody that it doesn’t always go your way and you have to suffer in life sometimes. It’s not always ideal and perfect.
“But I must admit, I’ve been really impressed with his character and personality, he’s very professional, understands the game really well, takes responsibility. So it’s nice when those types of people get the rewards, which is a reward of their hard work and effort.”
Arrizabalaga will make his eighth appearance in succession when Chelsea make the short trip to face Brentford on Wednesday evening.
With Arsenal and Manchester City not in domestic action this week, Chelsea can move to within five points of first place in the standings.