The Minor Players in Year Order
Neil Sullivan 03/04
Sullivan made seven appearances in the inaugural Abramovich season, his final appearance being against Arsenal on 21 Feb 2004. The former Spurs and Wimbledon keeper didn’t do a lot wrong in his short spell with the club.
Marco Ambrosio 03/04
Italian Ambrosio made twelve appearances in all competitions in 03/04 and is probably most remembered for playing in both legs of the memorable quarter final victory over Arsenal in the Champions League.
Lenny Pidgeley 2004-2006
Only making two appearances for the first team over two seasons, he sadly didn’t qualify for a Premier League winner’s medal in either of Chelsea two title winning seasons in Jose Mourinho’s first spell as manager. He did get a League Cup winners medal as a non-playing substitute in 2005.
Ross Turnbull 2009-2013
Signed from Middlesbrough, Turnbull made fifteen first team appearances for the club over four seasons. He earned winners medals in the 2012 FA Cup Final and Champions League Final as a non-playing substitute.
Mark Schwarzer 2013/14
Signed from neighbours Fulham on a free transfer, Schwarzer made eleven appearances through that season. He is most remembered for coming on as a substitute goalkeeper for Petr Cech in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid keeping a clean sheet and then keeping goal in the 3-1 defeat in the second leg.
Asmir Begovic 2015-2017
Despite being a solid goalkeeper, Begovic only made nineteen appearances in two years with Chelsea. Despite only featuring in two league games in season 16/17, with new qualification rules he was given a Premier League winners medal before being sold to Bournemouth.
Willy Caballero 2017-present
Caballero has played ten matches for Chelsea over the past three seasons. He played in the 2020 FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal. Solid and dependable when called upon, he has been a good club servant and has been rewarded with a new one year deal to take him up to the summer of 2021.
The Major Players in Ranking Order (The Top 5 Keepers)
No5 Hilario 2006-2014
Hilario made twenty appearances in all competitions over eight seasons with Chelsea, his first being replacing the injured Cech and Cudicini who had both been injured in a game at Reading in October 2006. Most Chelsea fans will remember his poor performance in the 4-2 home loss to Manchester City in February 2010, in which he dived over the ball to let in a weak Tevez effort. He is of course now the Chelsea goalkeeping coach, some may consider him rather lucky to hold such a role at the club!
No4 Kepa Arrizabalaga 2018- present
Signed for a club record fee in the summer of 2018 of £71 million the scouting reports that led to Chelsea parting with such money must of been glowing. However there can be no doubts despite the potential, his two seasons with the club to date have been desperately disappointing. In his first season, one bright spot was his penalty save in the League Cup semi final penalty shoot-out win over Tottenham. However in the final itself, his refusal to be substituted just before a penalty shoot out in favour of penalty saving expert Willy Caballero, did him no favours with the Chelsea support. He did however claim a Europa League winners medal at the end of the 18/19 season.
However, season 19/20 has marked Kepa out as sadly one of the lowest performing goalkeepers in the division with a shot stopping percentage rate of just 56.5%, putting him at the very bottom of the shot stopping table in the Premier League. The past season has led to Kepa being dropped on several occasions and Frank Lampard’s patience finally ran out after a 5-3 defeat against Liverpool with Willy Caballero selected to play in Chelsea’s final fixtures including a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton which secured Champions League football in 20/21. It remains to be seen if Frank Lampard moves Kepa on over the close season, but his price tag may mean the club taking a huge loss if they sell him. However there is no doubts he has failed so far to live up to expectations for a keeper at this level.
No3 Thibaut Courtois 2011-2018
Chelsea signed the Belgian from Genk in the summer of 2011 loaning him out for the next three seasons to Atletico Madrid. In the summer of 2014 Jose Mourinho decided to bring Courtois back and made him the No.1 goalkeeper for the 14/15 season with 32 year old Petr Cech reverting to the No.2 role. Courtois won Premier League medals in 2015 and 2017 and additionally won the golden glove, keeping sixteen clean sheets. He also won the FA Cup in his final Chelsea game in 2018, however despite the relative success of his career at Chelsea, he never quite endeared himself to the Chelsea support and his pushing of his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2018. He may find himself unlucky to be at no3 in the Abramovich era keepers in my ranking!
No2 Carlo Cudicini 1999-2009
The heart of a Lion and a true Chelsea favourite, for me he just comes ahead of Courtois in the Abramovich goalkeepers. Making 216 appearances in all competitions for the club, it was under Gianluca Vialli that Cudicini made his Chelsea debut winning Chelsea player of the year in 2002. When Roman arrived in 2003, Cudicini was the No.1 goalkeeper under Claudio Ranieri and in that first season with the new owner Cudicini had an outstanding season playing a full role in Chelsea’s highest top division finish since being League champions in 1955 saving a memorable Van Nistelrooy penalty at Old Trafford along the way.
The arrival of Petr Cech meant Cudicini reverted No.2 goalkeeper for the next five seasons. He did claim another FA Cup winners medal in 2007 as a non-playing substitute, however the sadness for Cudicini was that he did not win a Premier League medal as different qualification rules applied in 2005 and 2006. However for me no one deserved it more than him for his ten years devoted service to the club, like Peter Bonetti sometime before him, he had the reflexes of a cat and was an excellent catcher of a ball despite not being the tallest of keepers. He was always very dependable as a Chelsea keeper and no one will forget his dying minutes save from Dimitar Berbatov in the thrilling 4-4 draw v Spurs in March 2008.
No1 Petr Cech 2004-2015
Honours: Premier League 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015. FA Cup 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012. League Cup 2005, 2007, 2015. Champions League 2012. Europa League 2013.
The greatest Chelsea keeper not just of the Abramovich era but of any Chelsea era? Signed from Rennes in 2004, Jose Mourinho put Cech straight into the No.1 position upon his arrival at Chelsea as manager in August 2004. Cech’s finest hour for Chelsea surely is the 2012 Champions League Final, in which he saved Arjen Robben’s penalty in extra time before then saving two penalties in the shootout to allow Drogba to score the winning penalty. Such was his overall quality, Cech won the Golden Glove award, a record he won four times in 2005, 2010, 2014 and then for Arsenal in 2016.
When Cech’s time at Chelsea was up in the summer of 2015, Roman Abramovich overruled manager Mourinho in allowing Cech to move to rivals Arsenal so that he could remain in London. This surely was a marker to how highly the owner rated Cech and a reward for all his wonderful service to the club.
Cech had the lot as a keeper. He was an excellent shot stopper, good catcher, commander of his area and natural leader. Not even a very serious head injury at Reading in 2006 stopped Cech from being successful. Surely only Peter Bonetti displayed more in a Chelsea goalkeeping shirt than Cech and shows why the club has welcomed him back as technical advisor after his retirement at Arsenal in 2019, ironically his final game coming against Chelsea. His honours list above speaks for itself, He’s got the lot!