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Battle Under the Bar at Fulham – goalkeepers

Heading into the 2011-2012 Barclays’ Premier League season, Fulham will have a major dilemma on their hands in between the posts. The club recently acquired Csaba Somogyi from Hungarian side Rakospalotai EAC to provide extra depth in the scenario that David Stockdale is loaned out. The battle for the starter’s job seems to have been already settled by new manager Martin Jol’s intent to loan out the Englishman, but should it be?

Thirty-eight year old veteran Mark Schwarzer didn’t have a sublime campaign last year, but that probably wasn’t helped by constant speculation of a move to Arsenal back in August, and a mid-season trip to the Asian Cup. In the Australian’s absence Stockdale performed well, registering three clean sheets in seven league matches. Recently, Swansea City’s £2 million approach for Stockdale was rejected by Fulham, with the club obviously preferring to loan out a man who has already been included in the England squad.

It seems to me as if Stockdale should be Fulham’s number one when the season kicks off in just over a month’s time. He’s over a decade younger, and therefore presents a much more viable option going forward in future years and is likely to be less prone to injury. Additionally, Schwarzer seemed susceptible to mistakes at times, dropping shots that should have been easily caught, the most recent of incidents coming against Liverpool.

The younger Englishman, however, demonstrated his abilities in some of the bigger matches, including a penalty save against eventual league winners Manchester United. Stockdale allowed an average of less than a goal a game, whilst Schwarzer was well over a one goal average. This becomes even more meaningful when you see that Stockdale made one more save every two games than Schwarzer did. At age 25, Stockdale is relatively young for a goalkeeper, and therefore has some weaker points in his game. Schwarzer played balls into the opposition’s defensive area nearly ten percent more effectively, and caught the ball when making saves far more frequently than his counterpart.

Any goalkeeper’s success is typically measured in clean sheets, and Stockdale proved himself capable of recording them at the highest level. He nearly had one every other game, where as Schwarzer was much closer to every third game. On the whole, it seems to me like the best option is to sell Schwarzer, possibly to Arsenal if they’re still interested, for a small fee (in the region of £3 million) and let Stockdale take over the starter’s job, with new man Somogyi as the reserve. Whether Jol decides to carry out his plan of loaning the young Englishman remains to be seen; however, Schwarzer isn’t getting any younger and Stockdale must be given a chance to prove himself sooner or later.

Fulham FC supporter and blogger; Follow me on Twitter @JGatt28
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