Cesar Azpilicueta insists Kepa Arrizabalaga has the “character and personality” to revitalise his floundering Chelsea career.
Blues skipper Azpilicueta accepts slumps in form can demoralise even the most hardened professionals, but tipped his Spanish compatriot to get back to his best.
Spain goalkeeper Kepa made his first appearance in almost a month only to produce yet another error as Chelsea slipped to a 3-3 Premier League draw with Southampton on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has lost his first-choice status after Edouard Mendy’s arrival in west London, but the Senegal goalkeeper should miss Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Sevilla due to a thigh problem.
Mendy’s absence has opened the door for Kepa, and Azpilicueta remains convinced the £72million man can stride on and rediscover form and confidence.
“In football we have difficult times, in my position as captain and also knowing him a long time, I’ll always try to help him,” Azpilicueta said.
“Sometimes you feel like everything goes against you. You have to have the character and personality to face it.
“I have no doubt Kepa will work hard to reverse the situation.
“The whole squad are fighting for targets as a collective. When you are a goalkeeper it’s a completely different situation, but he will keep working hard, giving his best.”
Chelsea raced into a commanding 2-0 lead against Saints on Saturday, Timo Werner firing a fine brace.
Costly errors let Southampton back into the game, however, with Kai Havertz losing possession for Danny Ings to finish and Kepa and Kurt Zouma’s joint error allowing Che Adams to level.
Kepa failed to collect Zouma’s under-hit back-pass and wound up colliding with the post in failing to claw back his ground, before Adams rifled home.
Havertz capped a flowing move to put Chelsea back in front, only for Jannik Vestergaard to snatch a stoppage-time equaliser.
Now the Blues will host Europa League winners Sevilla to open their Champions League campaign, with club captain Azpilicueta laying bare the scale of improvements now required.
“What is clear is that if we want to fight for everything we have to improve defensively,” he said.
“This is a problem we have to fix collectively and individually. Sometimes you can get away with it but you cannot rely every game on having to score three goals.
“You have to dig in and get a clean sheet. It’s very important for the confidence of the team to have this solidity. We have to star getting this consistency of not conceding goals.
“Obviously when you are in a situation where you are 2-0 up, went in at half-time 2-1, the first 10 minutes we put ourselves a bit in trouble, didn’t choose the right solution.
“When we had to play long we played short. When we had to play short we played long. We lost a few balls that gave them confidence to keep pressing. We didn’t threaten enough.
“We conceded from a set-play. When we are on the pitch individually and collectively we have to make better decisions, dig in, lock the door and finish.
“When you have the solidity defensively it gives a boost to the whole team, to the attacking players to create chances.
“When you are weak defensively sometimes you know we feel like we have to feel like we have to score three or four goals every game.
“As a defender I feel bad when you concede so many goals. We have to improve our personal mistakes and collectively take better decisions.
“Through the season you are not going to be playing beautiful football and winning 3-0 or 4-0 every game. When you don’t, you have to get results.”