Category Archives: Goalkeeper spotlight

There are two new Goalkeepers in the Premier League

With the Championship season drawing to a close, with just the play-off winner to resolve. Two teams are already promoted with Goalkeepers I was blogging about 2 years ago.

I blogged because I saw great potential in both of them after watching them in a number of games:

Kasper Schmeichel – living in the shadow of his dad, someone who had been trying to emulate his dad. However, Kasper is now finding his own style and it has not gone un-noticed by clubs in the Premiership. Check out my previous article: https://goalkeepingitreal.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/goalkeeper-spotlight-kasper-schmeichel/

Tom Heaton – 2 years after moving from Cardiff, where chances were limited because the impressive David Marshall was in goal (still as impressive this season with his shots to save ratio, even though Cardiff swap with Burnley into the Championship…). Now Tom Heaton has shown why he was in the England U21 set up. It is good to see another English keeper given a chance to shine in the top division. Check out my previous articles: https://goalkeepingitreal.wordpress.com/tag/tom-heaton/

Here is to next season and seeing how these Goalkeepers develop further ūüėČ

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Adios to Barcelona for Valdes…

I have grown up supporting a team I watched as a young boy and that support has never wavered through both the good and bad times of football, I have been there through thick and thin. However even though I am an avid supporter of my club I do look out for the results of certain other teams, whether that be because I have friends or relatives who support them, or in the case of Barcelona, because of the number of great holidays to this beautiful part of the world, almost making Barcelona feel like a second home. That coupled with my good understanding of the Spanish language allowing me to read a good chunk of the words in the Spanish press, especially my favourite paper the Sport (This is not in any way the same as the UK boob filled newspaper, this is actually about sport!) allows me to follow Barcelona in more ways than one. Not just from reading the papers whilst on holiday, but also through their App and Facebook site, meaning I am flooded with information on the team, giving me yet more reasons to practice my Spanish  whilst reading about the latest rumours in the Barcelona camp.

When it comes to rumours, often the Sport out-trumps our press. They called it right on the transfers of Thierry Henry, David Villa and most recently Alex Song from Arsenal. So as a fan of Goalkeeping a number of stories recently have really caught my eye… That Victor Valdes is not looking to renew his contract with Barcelona when it expires in 1.5 years.

The UK press are all over this story too, already throwing names in the frame as their own potential ‘Exclusives’. With one rumour being that Liverpool and Barcelona could be looking to do a swap for Spain’s 2nd choice goalkeeper, Valdes, for Spain’s 3rd choice keeper, Pepe Reina. Which would make sense as Reina was a former Barcelona scholar and would probably like a return. However, when you read the¬†Spanish¬†press there is a different name being touted, one which make’s more sense, Thibaut Courtois.

Courtois, is someone Barcelona have been able to see up close, from his time on loan from Chelsea¬†in La Liga at Atletico Madrid. Seeing Courtois in very impressive form…¬†Last season (2011-2012) saw him keep 23 clean sheets 52 appearances for Atletico Madrid and this season (2012-2013) to date he has kept 14 clean sheets in 24 games! No wonder ¬†he appears to have caught their eye, and no wonder why Chelsea want to hold contract talks with him… However, even though this impressive form ought to see him get more first team appearances with his current employer on his return from loan, there is the issue of the also impressive Petr Cech being in his way. With Cech as the first choice keeper, would Courtois really be happy as ¬†the second choice, when this Summer he could be guaranteed first team action? All of which means there is a lot more to this rumour than just paper talk…

It will be a shame for Barcelona to lose Valdes, who according to the Sport will be sold in the Summer. He has been such a great Goalkeeper for them over the many years as their number 1. Indeed, he has had his low points, his critics and dropped the odd clanger, but which keeper hasn’t (including those at the¬†highest¬†level). His stats over the years show that he deserves the praise and recognition he is getting. Most notably his best form was in 2007, when he entered the¬†Barcelona record books after not conceding a goal for 466 minutes, followed by winning the best goalkeeper in Spain in the 2008-2009 season beating the Spanish 1st Choice Goalkeeper Iker Casillas – some feat. It is part of the reason why Barcelona will remain fond of him.¬†I wish him well and perhaps maybe… he will decide to come to the Premiership. If so then I for one can’t wait to see him in action! ūüėČ

Brad Guzan the unsung hero?

At the start of the season, Aston Villa’s number 1 was Shay Given. Let’s face it with Shay’s track record in goal who could blame the Villa as he has had a phenomenal career, someone that many of us Goalkeepers and Goalkeeper Coaches admire.

However only 3 matches in Villa took the decision to start with Brad Guzan¬†in goal. Someone I felt after watching in a cup match at the Villa was no match for Shay… Fast forward 15 matches and he is still in goal and now proving me wrong. At the rate he is going he is likely to pick up my end of season award for busiest keeper as in the 2 of the last 3 matches alone he has had to cope with (from BBC stats) a ridiculous amount of shots on target (29 in total!!!). And keeping the scoreline low (only 2 goals conceded over these matches).

image from www1.skysports.com

image from www1.skysports.com

In his last match at Liverpool he had to cope with 17 shots on target (!) and only conceded the 1 goal whilst watching Pepe Reina have only 6 shots on goal, but conceding 3. (Match report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20650106)

With 5 clean sheets this season and a huge work rate means that Brad is having a huge influence on the games at the Villa as few (including me) thought Villa would pick up all 3 points at Anfield…

I take my (Santa) hat off to you Brad for continuing to prove me wrong and prove you are a match for Shay. Long may your fine displays continue! I think you deserve a big Christmas drink! ūüėČ

Goalkeeper spotlight: Kasper Schmeichel

With votes flying in for the Premier league’s 20 seasons, the biggest candidate for the best Goalkeeper over those 20 seasons must be Peter Schmeichel. He was such a great Goalkeeper that every goalkeeper after him at Manchester United had a lot to live up to! So spare a thought for his son, Kasper who people are already trying to match up against his old man!

The pressure on Kasper to be as good or better than his dad must be immense, but he isn’t doing too bad… Yes, he has some similar traits to his Dad, he makes mistakes (don’t we all!) but let’s face it he is only 25 and he is still developing. If he is like his dad, then he still has another 14 years of Goalkeeping to prove he is as good as we hope he is!

He has great potential and this potential was first really shown during his time at Notts County under Sven Goran-Eriksson where in the 2009-2010 season:

  • He kept 24 clean sheets in 43 games (this equated to¬†a 55.8% ratio for clean sheets to games; and
  • Only conceded 29 goals in 43 matches. an impressive 0.67 goals conceded per game.¬†

Fast forward then to this season (2011-2012) with Leicester City (also signed by Sven Goran-Eriksson) and with only 1 match to go this Kasper has: 

  • Played in every league match this season (45 games);
  • Conceded 54 goals; and
  • Kept 14 clean sheets.

Yes that does mean that Kasper has conceded more (1.2 goals conceded per game) than at Notts county and the ratio for clean sheets to games is lower too at 31.1%. However at Leicester he has been far busier in goal than at Notts County! Kasper has actually had to cope with an astonishing 240 shots on target (far lower than my last goalkeeper spotlight blog for Adam Federici). Therefore if you based his stats on how busy he actually was, then at 54 goals conceded versus 240 shots on goal, means that he only conceded 0.2 goals per every shot at goal, which you have to say is very impressive. 

OK, he may not win the golden glove this season, but then that is difficult for any Goalkeeper that has to cope with that amount of shots on goal (a good point to remember for those student Goalkeepers), but how good a keeper is, is more than just clean sheets (another good point for the student Goalkeepers). So it isn’t a surprise to¬†read in the¬†press that he is¬†being linked to¬†moves to the premiership.

Kasper is most definitely one to watch and has every chance to emulate the success of his Dad. I can’t wait to see¬†that – although it’s a shame he isn’t an English international!

Goalkeeper spotlight: Adam Federici

So Reading this week secured promotion but how much do they owe that to their Australian Goalkeeper, Adam Federici…

So far this season Federici¬†has kept 14 clean sheets. And yes some goalkeepers with a similar amount of clean sheets this season have done so because of few shots on goal, meaning that the defence can also share the credit. This could be said of Federici, with only 125 shots on goal this season (compared with that previously posted about Frankie Fielding having 275 shots on goal!). However, this month has shown Federici’s true real class as a Goalkeeper, that so far this month he has kept¬†4 clean sheets against a barrage of 31 shots on goal…

The best of his performances being the match against their rivals for the Championship trophy, Southampton, who had 19¬†shots at¬†goal and 12 on target. The scoreline¬†could have been so much different if it wasn’t for Federici’s heroics, with Reading winning that game 3-1 to move into pole position.

image from corporate.olympics.com.au

The Australian has of course grabbed the headlines in his home country:

The Australian Times: http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/sport/more-sport/aussie-adam-federici-set-for-premier-league-with-reading.htm

The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/football/reading-takes-federici-to-top-flight/story-fn63e0vj-1226332080280

Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/federici-set-for-epl-with-reading-20120418-1x68s.html

The Telegraph (Australia): http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/soccer/adam-fedirici-back-in-the-epl-following-the-promotion-of-reading-to-top-flight-football/story-e6frey4r-1226332141360

And Australia should be proud,¬†so too Reading¬†and so too us Goalkeeper followers… with just 2 games left Reading are now promoted, and the Premiership gets another class Goalkeeping acquisition!¬†ūüėČ

Goalkeeper spotlight: Frankie Fielding

With votes now coming in for your Premiership Goalkeeper of the season… Showing that this season has been good for Goalkeeping in the Premier League with the voting across a wide range of Goalkeepers… It got me thinking that maybe I should start a poll for Championship Goalkeeper of the season too…

Perhaps if I ran this poll, maybe we would see a number of votes for our star England U21 Goalkeeper, Frankie Fielding?

After this weekends display for Derby County against Ipswich Town, with the papers exclaiming that Frankie “was in unbeatable form”, he again showed just why he is rated so highly and perhaps showed Joe Hart that there is more competition coming in the future for his place in the Senior England team… Because, as per my previous article on the future looking bright for England, he is just one of a crop of future England star stoppers that can give us confidence in this position for years to come.

Frankie was a product of the Blackburn Rovers Academy, but the closest he came to the first team was on the subs bench. So instead he went out on loan to Wycombe Wanderers, Northampton, Rochdale, Leeds United and after a frustrated plea to want to play first team football, played for Derby on loan too. With clean sheets and impressive display helping Derby to remain a Championship club, Frankie signed for a bargain £400,000 this season.

image from telegraph.co.uk

The reason I rate this young talent so highly, is because Frankie Fielding is a battler who just loves playing in goal and will do what he can to be no.1. Even if that means issuing a come and get me plea… His stats this season also show that he is definitely one to watch:

As at the 9th April Frankie Fielding at Derby County has:

  • Conceded 53 goals;
  • Kept 11 clean sheets in 41 games; and
  • Been one of the busiest Goalkeepers in the Championship, having to cope with 275 shots on goal, so conceding 53 goals and keeping 11 clean sheets against that barrage of shots is some feat!

With Frankie Fielding now on the fringes of the Senior England team and with these stats I am sure he is being looked at quite closely…. That with this such form, he could certainly be worthy competition for Joe Hart or one player that Premier League Clubs would soon be knocking on Derby County’s door…. What a great future prospect!

Goalkeeper spotlight: Michel Vorm

I saw this¬†tweet last week:¬†“Who have been the best goalkeeper for you this season ? – SZCZESNY¬†– DE GEA¬†– HART – KRUL¬†– VORM¬†– FRIEDEL¬†– OTHER”. As a fan of Goalkeeping¬†I had to reply, pointing¬†out that this list could be expanded on, that indeed they are all quality Goalkeepers. Although if I had to pick one, the¬†stand out Goalkeeper this season in the premiership is Michel Vorm of Swansea City.

At the start of this season no one really knew about Michel Vorm, they do now…

Michel Vorm signed for Swansea City from Ultrecht for what now seems to be an absolute bargain in Premiership prices of only £1.5 million! Making his debut against Manchester City. This turned out to be a 4-0 defeat for Swansea, but that score could have been much higher had it not been for the activity of Vorm in the Swansea goal. Since then Vorm has kept 12 clean sheets. Which is some feat as he is the second busiest keeper in the Premiership, having had to make 111 saves so far. 

He is also gaining a reputation for a penalty save specialist, having saved a penalty from Ben Watson of Wigan Athletic and Clint Demspey of Fulham in this season. I would have to agree, he has a fantastic technique, both psychologically and technically, winning the battle of minds and using great agility to make the save respectively.

Swansea are likely to stay in the Premiership this season. There have been heroics outfield and people making a name for themselves at Swansea, but the star of the show for me has to be Vorm. A class act who Swansea must keep hold of!

Goalkeeper spotlight: Joe Hart

I am sure some of you goalkeeper following folk were wondering why I hadn’t done a spotlight on Joe Hart sooner. This isn’t because I haven’t wanted to, I have just found excuses not too after seeing some other fine Goalkeeping that really needed a stage before even the talent that is Joe Hart.

Following on from previous posts, where I have discussed that there is much English talent in the lower leagues, Joe Hart is a classic example of the talent we have in this country that is being spotted outside of the Premiership. In fact for Hart after playing his first professional game in 2004 for Shrewsbury in the Conference and then going on with Shrewsbury to be voted League Two’s best Goalkeeper in the 2005-2006. Plus also putting him PFA League Two Team of that Year.

It was such great form for Shrewbury Town that brought him first under the England FA spotlight at U19 level and also on the radar of a number of high-profile clubs. So at the end of the 2005-2006 season, it was time for Hart to move on, where he decided to sign for Manchester City in a deal worth up to £1.5m.

Sometimes signing young talent can be a gamble as you are unsure how much more a player will develop. However in Hart’s case he developed his skills not just at Manchester City, but while going out on loan at Tranmere, Blackpool and then his greatest loan move, Birmingham, where he showed the Premier league just what sort of player he had developed into, earning him a nomination for the 2010 PFA young player of the year and getting into the PFA team of the year. Like his replacement at Birmingham, Ben Foster, Hart took his loan move as an opportunity to show his current club and the rest of the country that he could compete at the highest level. That his was an exceptional talent. Someone who not only turned his club manager’s head but also the England Manager’s head too.

So in the space of 5 years, Joe Hart went from non-league football to England’s first choice goalkeeper. What an exceptional rise to fame!

Some say he is a fantastic keeper now, that he has it all… And I would agree that he is a fantastic keeper although I still feel this is just the start of even better things with Joe Hart, that he could easily become one of the world’s best.

At the Academy we like to encourage our own keepers to look at what they do well and where they could improve (we also do this for the coaches and the Academy too!). The coaches and keepers last week also reviewed Joe Hart and agreed that there are many areas that he does well, but like them, there are still areas that we all felt could improve.

Some of the areas we all agreed that Joe Hart does well were:

  • Communication skills – How many pictures have we seen in the press of Joe Hart shouting out instructions to his team? This is probably why he could be a good future England Captain.
  • Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) – The ground Joe Hart covers to get over across the goal to save a ball is exceptional. Couple that with how quick he is to get back and set for a second or third save, shows excellent skill.
  • Reactions – Joe Hart makes some great pinpoint saves, where he has little time to react. This also adds to the SAQ, with his quick reactions after getting to his feet to make lightning quick reactionary saves!

Some of the areas we all agreed that Joe Hart could improve on were:

  • Set Position – We noted that in some situations Joe Hart is seen with a wide stance. OK that maybe how he is comfortable and may allow better push-off but we prefer having feet closer together, otherwise you could fall foul like Pepe Reina of Liverpool did recently in the match against QPR, with the ball going through his legs (I can hear Soccer AM now: ‘Tunnel’… ‘Taxi for Reina’…!).
  • Punching – Goalkeeper do tend to punch balls these days, however with Joe Hart he always tends to go for the catch (great!). That said that in situations he really needs to he makes the judgement call to punch, unfortunately we have seen examples where the punch is neither high or wide and most often punched out to the front of goal. Fortunately though in most cases he got away with it!

OK you may disagree, on the areas of improvement. But like all keepers of Joe Hart’s mind-set, he will know the areas he wants to improve on, using his coach to hone in his skills. Joe Hart like other great players in this world may already have talent, but he will do what he can to ensure further development. After all he has already shown this in such a short space of time. He is an exceptional talent and I look forward to seeing how this talent improves further.

Goalkeeper spotlight: Ben Foster

In a previous spotlight I posted about Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny and that infamous mix up with Laurent Koscielny in the 2011 Carling Cup Final. However let’s not forget that in that match, even though Szczesny may not have been having the best of games, in the opposite goal, Ben Foster was showing the world just why he is one England’s finest keepers.

Like Tom Heaton of Cardiff (also previously in one of my Goalkeeper spotlights), Foster was also a former keeper at Manchester United who like Heaton was unlikely to ever be first choice keeper at United considering the form of Edwin van der Sar (and then also to become third choice in the pecking order behind Tomasz Kuszczak). So like Heaton, Foster has had to move away from United to establish himself.

Foster had a loan spell away from Manchester United with Watford, where he was described by the then Watford Manager, Aidy Boothroyd as “better than current Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar”. With Boothroyd proclaiming that Foster “is going to be the best goalkeeper in the world.” High praise indeed, but then he did help Watford secure their promotion to the Premier league and was named Player of the Season the following year when on loan again with Watford.

So after impressing on loan and with Watford and with Alex Ferguson also believing he had a potential talent, Foster eventually got the chance to take over from Edwin van der Sar at a time when van der Sar was injured. However, where as David De Gea at Manchester United seems to have been given the time to prove himself even after being slated by the press, Foster appeared not to have had such a grace period.

Like De Gea, Foster to seemed to be having a crisis of confidence.[http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/oct/05/ben-foster-england-manchester-united].

But you have to hand it to Foster, even though being slated by the press, especially after the 2-1 defeat to France, Foster has dusted himself off and got on to show that Aidy Boothroyd’s comments were just.

Foster’s move from Manchester United for an estimated ¬£6m to Birmingham City, really showcased his talent. Although when he first moved, Foster had a lot to live up to as the previous season saw loanee Joe Hart show Manchester City just why he is considered England’s best keeper (and was enough to ensure that Hart then became first choice at Manchester City, which was frustrating to their other great keeper, Shay Given!). However, Foster showed that he was equal to Joe Hart, and kept things as tight as Hart did at the back. Becoming a firm favourite with the Birmingham fans especially after his heroics in that Carling Cup final, picking up the man of the match award in that Final. [http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Birmingham-man-of-the-match-keeper-Ben-Foster-amazed-at-the-Carling-Cup-triumph-over-Arsenal-against-all-odds-article708595.html]

In addition to his Carling Cup winners medal and man-of the match, like at Watford, Foster was also deservedly awarded Birmingham’s Player of the Season!

Even though Foster was in inspirational form it was not enough to keep Birmingham in the Premiership and with subsequent relegation, meant that Birmingham needed to look at sending out Foster on loan to help their wage bill. This has seen Foster go on loan to West Brom, with the option of signing permanently, should Birmingham fail in their bid to bounce straight back up into the Premier League. Birmingham’s loss is most certainly West Brom’s gain, as he is now their first choice keeper producing again exceptional goalkeeping prowess that is getting the praise he deserves, from his Manager, Roy Hodgson who has stated in the press of his desire to keep Foster permanently [http://www.sundaymercury.net/midlands-sport/west-bromwich-albion-fc/west-brom-news/2012/03/18/west-brom-roy-hodgson-praises-ben-foster-66331-30561771/]; and getting high praise from Alan Hansen on this weekend’s Match of the Day after producing a string of fine saves.

Foster has most certainly grown into a great goalkeeper. An asset to any team… It now is not really a question as to whether he will pick up more awards, as with the form he is in, it is almost a certainty that he will be honoured again….The only question really for us, England fans, is how can we persuade Foster to join the England squad again? To have both Joe Hart and Ben Foster at future championships with England would be fantastic!

Goalkeeper spotlight: Simon Mignolet

Again I pick a spotlight on a goalkeeper against Liverpool. Honestly I have nothing against the Reds, it’s just recently they have been up against some quality Goalkeeping This time they were up against¬†the impressive Simon Mignolet, the Sunderland AFC Goalkeeper.¬†

The previous week Simon Mignolet was drawing the plaudits for his form the previous week in the derby match against Newcastle United, saving a Demba Ba penalty. However that week he ended up disappointed as he was to concede to a last gasp goal from Shola Ameobi .[http://www.sportinglife.com/football/premiership/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=soccer/12/03/05/SOCCER_Sunderland_Nightlead.html&BID=312]

Despite being frustrated by the Tyne and Wear derby, he remained upbeat for the match against Liverpool and as seen was resolute in the goal to numerous efforts from Liverpool.

It’s funny really as,¬†like many Goalkeepers, this¬†wasn’t actually the position that¬†he started his playing career in… For, Mignolet¬†was actually a midfielder! However, like many players of a young¬†age who¬†go through personal changes and¬†growth spurts,¬†this hampered his development.¬†So instead of being given time to improve he was released by his local club for not making the grade. Although this didn’t deter Mignolet¬†who not only still played for fun, found a new position… Goalkeeping. Which six years after being released saw him playing in the Premiership. Midfields¬†loss is most certainly Goalkeepings gain!

Mignolet speaks to the Sunday Sun: http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/sport/sunderland-afc/safc-news/2012/03/11/simon-mignolet-has-become-the-no-1-for-safc-fans-79310-30505994/

Craig Gordon,¬†Sunderland’s big signing from Hearts in 2007 for a British transfer record of ¬£9m. Has recently spoke of his frustrations at not getting in the team [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2111530/Craig-Gordon-wants-Sunderland-No-1-spot-back.html], but we can see the reason why, with Mignolet¬†in the form that he is in! Martin O’Neill’s new team have become solid at the back and a big part of any good defence is a great Goalkeeper… Keep up the great work Mignolet! ūüėČ

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