In-Between the Posts: Premier League Keepers, Battle For Glory

In-Between the Posts: Premier League Keepers, Battle For Glory

A unique feature of this transfer window has been that the almost all the top clubs are looking to add depth and quality in the goalkeeping department. Whether it is the keepers who were out on loan returning to their parent club or smart captures of foreign keeper on the cheap, managers are understanding the need to have more than the usual safe pair of hands between the posts.

elitekeepers

Only Manchester United and Everton from the teams that finished in the top eight last season seem to be content with their first choice keeper. Southampton meanwhile are trying to secure the services of Celtic’s Fraser Forster and are expected to bid £9 million for the goalkeeper after their initial bid of £6m was turned down by the Hops.

Arsenal

ospina

Arsenal completed the signing of David Ospina from Nice for £3.2 million on Sunday to replace Lukasz Fabianski who left the club for Swansea after his contract expired at the end of last season. They have added a strong competitor for the Wojciech Szczesny’s previously unchallenged first-choice role at the club. The Polish goalkeeper has improved leaps and bounds over the past season putting in a string of impressive displays that won him the Premier League Golden Glove last season, but he will now have to be at the top of his game every single time to prevent the Colombian from replacing him in the Gunnners line-up.

Arsenal

Ospina brings with him a wealth of experience after playing in 189 games for Nice over a six year period, though he received a remarkable received 11 yellow cards and four reds during that period. Despite being five inches shorter than the 6 foot 5 inch Wojciech Szczesny, Ospina’s goalkeeping stats from lasts season are very similar to those of Pole. France Soccer Weekly described him as “an excellent shotstopper, aggressive around the box, and fearless in the air against attackers who are regularly bigger and stronger than him,” as he almost single-handedly saved the French club from relegation. They finished just one place and two points above the relegation zone, losing all the games in which the Colombian didn’t feature. His 80.2% save percentage was the best in Ligue 1 lasts season and Szczesny is going to have a tough time keeping him out of the side next season.

Chelsea

With the return of Thibaut Courtois from a three-year loan at Atletico Madrid to Chelsea, the London club now has the best pair of keepers at arguably any club in the world. Petr Cech has consistently been among the best keepers in the Premier League since his arrival at Chelsea in 2004, winning the Premier League Golden Glove a record three times, an honour he shares with Joe Hart and Pepe Reina. He has also kept a club record 220 clean sheets for Chelsea in all competitions. However, his time at Chelsea might be up now if he’s not willing to play second fiddle to one of the most highly rated goalkeepers in the world.

“Every year there is a challenge. If you are going to be in the team you are going to have to do better than the other guys in the team,” Cech was quoted as saying.

chelsea

If Cech does intend to stay put and fight for his place though, it will only benefit Chelsea. Courtois returns to the club having amassed vast experience in his three years at Atletico. He won the La Liga and reached the Champions League final last season before impressing again in the World Cup with Belgium. Due to his almost 2 metres tall frame, he likes to come out and collect crosses while Cech is more comfortable punching the ball away.

Mourinho made the tough decision back in 2004 when he replaced fan-favourite Carlo Cudicini with a 22-year-old Cech. 10 years on, it looks like history will repeat itself.

Liverpool

Pepe Reina was a fan favourite during Rafa Benitez’s time at Liverpool. He was an important member of the side winning three consecutive Premier League Golden Glove awards before being named Liverpool’s player of the season during the 2009/10 campaign. His performances though started diminishing thereafter and he had a rough couple of years before Brendan Rodgers took charge of the club. After a season under him, Reina was replaced by newcomer Simon Mignolet and loaned out to Napoli for the entire season. The Belgian impressed during the first few months before making a few mistakes during the course of the season. He was named as the weakest link of the team by former custodian Bruce Grobbelaar during the end of last season, who went on to berate him for not being commanding enough at the back despite being a good shot stopper.

liverpool

Indeed Mignolet is known to prefer punching the ball rather than claiming it and he made twice the number of punches per game at an average than Reina. Mignolet is considered a better shot stopper, but he can be overawed by tall players making a nuisance of themselves in the six yard box, though he wasn’t helped by a shaky defence last season.

With Napoli not interested in signing the Spaniard and due to a lack of opportunities in Spain, there is a slim chance that Reina might end up staying put at Liverpool. In that unlikely scenario, he will be an excellent competition to Mignolet and Liverpool will have a player who spent eight seasons with them back. His high wages though remain a big issue in FSG’s policy at the club and they will be prepared to offload him at the first given opportunity.

Manchester City

Manchester City secured the services of Willy Caballero from Malaga on an initial £4.4m deal to compete with Joe Hart for his previously undisputed first choice role at the club since taking over the gloves from Steven Harper in the 2010/11 season. He won the man of the match award on the opening day of that season at White Hart Lane with some remarkable saves and has never looked back since. He was named the Premier League goalkeeper of the 2009–10 season in recognition of his performances at on loan at Birmingham City before returning to Manchester City and winning three Premier League Golden Glove awards in a row.

When Hart went through a rough patch last season with a series of high profile blunders that culminated in him conceding a last minute winner at Stamford Bridge, Pellegrini promptly replaced him with Costel Pantilimon for a brief spell. His replacement didn’t fare too well though and Hart was back in between the sticks with having a solid remainder of the season.

The Romanian international was released by City at the end of last season and Pellegrini brought in his former keeper at Malaga whom he had signed in February 2011 and worked with until his move to City last summer.

It was twice in two seasons that England’s first choice goalkeeper struggled for form, and with a 32-year-old Argentina international waiting in the wings this time around, he cannot afford to rest on his laurels.

city

The Argentine made more saves than Hart and Pantilimon combined last season, with the ex-Malaga man stopping 132 shots compared to the total of 89 by the two City goalkeepers last year.

His distribution accuracy is also much better than Hart and even former Manchester City goalkeeper coach Eric Steele has spoken of Hart’s ongoing need to improve his distribution.

Despite being a full 10 inches shorter than Hart, Caballero made more catches on an average and only half the punches by his English counterpart per 90 minutes.

On joining City, Caballero said, “I know I am coming to a big club with a very good goalkeeper. City already have a great goalkeeper in Joe Hart, but I will try and compete for the No.1 spot. I will do my best in the training sessions”


Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur brought in Michel Vorm for £4.5 million from Swansea City as a strange back up for French international Hugo Lloris. Vorm’s status as Swansea’s first choice was put under threat with the signing of Lukasz Fabianski who arrived on a free transfer. But a move to Spurs smacks of a contingency plan in the event of the Frenchman leaving rather than a mere back-up. Lloris is undoubtedly one of the best keepers in the league, having joined Spurs for £12m from Lyon back in 2012.

Lloris

He is excellent at nullifying attacks with his tendency to rush off the line and apart from having lightning quick reflexes, is also a very good at decision making. He claimed close to 98% of the crosses he came out for and ‘sweeped’ up in front of goal 47 times.

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Vorm had a better distribution owing to Swansea’s style of play while Lloris’ tendency to punch the ball was double that of Vorm.

Lloris made 10 interceptions compared to Vorm’s three and completed two cheeky dribbles to the Dutch international’s none.

Under Rodgers and then Michael Laudrup, Vorm became comfortable in possession of the ball and was like an 11th outfield player at times. He is a good shot stopper and a decent commander of the 18-yard-box.

“Every club has two top goalkeepers in their squad,” the Vorm told De Telegraaf. “It suits the club’s philosophy that there are two of us with Hugo and me. Especially when we see that Tottenham is active in a lot of competitions.”

Vorm has impressed in the league with his consistent displays over the past three years and is no doubt a bargain buy. He is too good to be a back up though, and if Lloris were to leave the club, Spurs have a more than capable replacement on their books.