Is Andre Onana the right goalkeeper for Chelsea?
The gossip has been making the rounds for weeks. Frustrated with Kepa's declining form – which we may have explained in our special report on shooting and saving skill – the bosses at Stamford Bridge are on the lookout for a new starting GK. Andre Onana, the 24-year-old Cameroon international who helped Ajax make the Champions League semifinal in 2019, is apparently at the top of Chelsea's list. So what sort of replacement would he be?
Let's start by taking a look at Onana's stats adjusted to a Premier League standard. His ball retention has steadily improved, but he's been a pretty average defender since he finished his first season with Ajax's first team:
Onana excels at stopping non-headers, but headers in open play give him trouble. He's 1.87m tall, which is on the shorter side for Premier League GKs. That's still 0.01m taller than Kepa, though. Here's how their stats compare for the most recent season of league football:
The first thing that stands out is the difference in shotstopping skill. Kepa was once a good stopper, but he's declined terribly since his episode in the 2019 Carabao Cup final. Onana even edges Kepa out in his weakest category of shots, headers in open play.
But putting aside shotstopping, the similarity in the GKs' playing styles is pretty stunning, and their ball retention ratings are almost identical as well. That's win for Onana, since he does dribble the ball forward much more than Kepa. Onana is a more active defender, too. Here's a comparison of their smartermaps:
Onana gets much further forward, where he tends to use shorter passes from the middle of the pitch. And that's in keeping with the more modern role for GKs, who can serve as sweeper off the ball or a CCB-like distributor on the ball.
Overall, it looks like Onana would easily slot into Chelsea's side and offer an improvement in a couple of important areas. He's also 18 months younger than Kepa. It would be a shame if Chelsea gave up on Kepa, though, since the roots of his problems may be psychological as well as technical. But the Premier League is unforgiving, so needs must.
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