After four months of being battered and bruised in the Premier League, Chelsea appear to be on the road to recovery after their stagnant start. The return of Thibaut Courtois may be one of the most prominent reasons why.
The role of a goalkeeper is vital in any sides' chance of battling for silverware and in Courtois, Chelsea posses one of the best shot stoppers on the planet.
His immaculate positioning and acrobatic diving defy his age which has resulted in the ex-Atletico Madrid man soaking up substantial plaudits. Courtois’ form is a pivotal variable in the Blues’ success and his comeback seems to have galvanised his teammates.
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After proving an integral contributor to Chelsea’s capture of the Premier League title last season, injury ruled out the Belgian for three months.
Whilst Asmir Begovic proved a culpable replacement, his underlying inexperience at such a top club plagued his run in the first team. Fantastic saves sprouted but so did numerous mistakes.
The Bosnian remains one of the league’s finest but Courtois’ awe-inspiring influence was sorely missed.
As Chelsea plummeted towards the relegation zone, the club missed its number one shot stopper all the more. Engulfed in such a relentless run of losses, the Blues needed their side at full strength and without Courtois they could not fulfill this.
However, since his return, Chelsea have begun to show signs of recovery.
Whilst an upsurge in form cannot simply be attributed to one player, Courtois’ comeback has undeniably coincided with gradual improvements for his side.
His first game back instantly demonstrated what the club had been missing. Although arguably at fault for Bournemouth’s winner, the Belgian denied the Cherries on an abundance of occasions - keeping his side in the game.
During the battling 0-0 draw with Manchester United, the 23-year-old denied both Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney superbly. The former proved particularly impressive in nature with the Belgian deflecting away a shot from point blank range.
It has to be wondered whether Begovic would have made similar saves in such a high profile fixture, which saw Chelsea put up an admirable fight against tough opposition.
Courtois has shown in recent weeks that long-term injury cannot deprive him of his shot-stopping prowess. His vital saves have simply proved priceless to Chelsea in their time of need.
Key to success
As a result, Courtois may just prove the key to Chelsea turning around their season under Guus Hiddink.
The foundations of a successful team always start at the back and subsequently with a high-quality goalkeeper. In the Belgian, Hiddink possesses just the man to reassure a back four emaciated of confidence.
Not only can the youngster keep Chelsea in important games but he can inspire the team around him with his relentless effort.
As long as Courtois continues to bail out the Blues in miraculous fashion, he gives Chelsea the chance to battle for vital points.
The Blues’ dire situation sees them far from fussy when it comes to how points are secured so stealing a goal despite being bombarded by the opposition is undoubtedly acceptable.
Courtois' presence equals clean sheets and if Chelsea’s forwards step up to the plate, as they did in the 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace, the side will start to gain some more desperately needed wins.
Chelsea possess a world-class goalkeeper and he has proven to be one of the club’s star performers this season when fit.
If the Belgian continues his inspirational form it would be unwise to underestimate the pivotal role he plays in resurrecting Chelsea’s season. With the club on its knees, Courtois may be the man to drag them out of their unrelenting turmoil.
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