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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! 😉

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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! 😉

The sparkling new season kicks off – So which Goalkeeper will shine?

A new season with new opportunities for Goalkeepers to cement their place in their clubs folklore, to show them self as the new star on the block or just try desperately to deal with all that is thrown at them…

So who do we have to watch this season? Who will we be most excited about and who will excel?

In the English Premier League, we will get chance to see those Goalkeepers again who impressed last season, through their impressive stats, such as Manchester City’s Joe Hart (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-c1 and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-80) and Manchester United’s David De Gea (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-c3). Will they impress again or for De Gea will he be pushed this time for his place in goal by the equally impressive Andres Lindegaard now that he is back from injury? 

Will Arsenal’s Worjciech Szczesny (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-5u) put his Euro 2012 red card behind him and build on his stats last season to be the Goalkeeper that lives up to the potential Arsene Wenger believes he has to be one of the greatest Goalkeepers?

We have some new Goalkeepers to watch too, where through promotion from the Championship we see two exciting propositions, with equally impressive stats, Reading’s Adam Federici (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-bA and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-am) and Southampton’s Kelvin Davis (Awards http://wp.me/p27nBU-bX and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-5o). Can they continue their impressive form or is the Premiership too big a step up…?

West Ham also promoted lost England Goalkeeper Robert Green to QPR who felt that he has the potential they need to keep it clean at the back and help QPR avoid their dalliance with the drop zone this term… A great Goalkeeper indeed with the potential to be their saviour, however will they be too reliant on him and perhaps will he then be as busy as Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Wayne Henessey was last season if the QPR defence is not there to help him?

West Ham instead bring in a new Goalkeeper but one who is very experienced  in the Premiership, Jussi Jaaskelainen from relegated Bolton Wanderers to work once again with Sam Allardyce. Jussi’s stats were also impressive last term, before he was unfortunately out for the season through injury. However if he rediscovers this form, could he help Big Sam bring back a mean defence like that which they both experienced in the old days at Bolton Wanderers, to keep West Ham in the Premiership? A defensive record similar to that which Martin O’Neill can boast in his time in the premiership, that may also see Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-6k) shine?

We have already discussed QPR but what about second season syndrome for last terms other Premiership new boys, will the defensive records slip for Swansea’s penalty king Michel Vorm or Norwich’s England new boy John Ruddy?

Will it be these that I have mentioned or the other equally impressive Goalkeepers of Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic, Wigan Athletic’s Ali Al-Habsi or Newcastle United’s Tim Krul that shine?

Perhaps indeed it could be a more experienced Premiership Goalkeeping head that steals the lime light such as Tottenham’s Brad Friedel, Aston Villa’s Shay Given, Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, Chelsea’s Petr Cech, West Bromwich Albion’s Ben Foster (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-6Q), Liverpool’s Pepe Reina, or Everton’s Tim Howard, that stand out this season?

It’s early doors in the Premiership with a number of goals scored against some of our hopefuls, whilst some others are already impressing…  However with another 37 games to go I wonder who will stand out from the crowd (and for the right reasons!). Who ever it is, for now I think we should sit back and watch as we are most certainly all in for a treat of some tremendous displays of Goalkeeping – I can’t wait 😉

Euro 2012 Group C Goalkeepers

The Goalkeepers to Watch in this tournament (if they get their chance)… A quick guide to the Goalkeepers at Euro 2012

PART THREE – GROUP C

Croatia

Stipe Pletikosa, FC Rostov, Age 33 – Squad Number 1 – 91 senior international appearances prior to this tournament

Ivan Kelava, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Age 24 – Squad Number 12 – 0 international appearances

Danijel Subašić, Monaco, Age 27 – Squad Number 23 – 4 international appearances

Italy

Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus, Age 34 – Squad Number 1 – 114 international appearances

Salvatore Sirigu, Paris St Germain, Age 25 – Squad Number 12 – 3 international appearances

Morgan De Sanctis, Napoli, Age 35 – Squad Number 14 – 5 international appearances

Republic of Ireland

Shay Given, Aston Villa FC, Age 36 – Squad Number 1 – 122 international appearances

Kieran Westwood, Sunderland FC, Age 27 – Squad Number 16 – 10 international appearances

David Forde, Milwall FC, Age 32 – Squad Number 23 – 2 international appearances

image from uk.eurosport.yahoo.com

Spain

Iker Casillas, Real Madrid, Age 31 – Squad Number 1 – 131 international appearances

Victor Valdes, Barcelona, Age 30 – Squad Number 12 – 8 international appearances

Pepe Reina, Liverpool, Age 29 – Squad Number 23 – 25 international appearances

This group boast a lot of experience Goalkeepers with all the teams Number 1’s having over 90 caps each. Will experience count? Or will we see more un-characteristic mistakes from the more experienced? So will any of these be your pick of the tournament…

To be a goal or not to be a goal? That is the question!

So a moment of contention arose in the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool. Another debate if we need goal line technology ensued… So was it a goal or not? A moment of sheer goalkeeping brilliance by Petr Cech or a moment of old fashioned luck?

After much debate and reviews on Sky Sports News, they concluded that not all the ball had crossed the line and I agree with teh experts that this was in fact an incredible save. As I have said before to the student keepers… always try and save everything… as it may just pay off!

Well done Petr Cech!

2011-2012 Premiership’s Best Goalkeeper Poll

So I have already shown my cards as to who I think is the stand out Goalkeeper of the Premiership this Season. But you may disagree with me… especially as there has been some fantastic Goalkeeping examples by a number of the Goalkeepers in the top level.

Now is your chance to vote for your best in my poll.

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! 😉

Goalkeeper spotlight: Wojciech Szczęsny

Further to my post about Southampton Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, another Goalkeeper getting the praise they deserve is Wojciech Szczęsny.

At the end of the match between Liverpool and Arsenal, it was a pleasant surprise to see Robin Van Persie giving his man of the match champagne to Wojciech Szczęsny Who equally deserved the recognition for his display against the Reds.

[http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2109848/Robin-van-Persie-hands-man-match-prize-keeper-Szczesny-fine-display.html]

But, spare a thought for Wojciech as he like David De Gea also was at the mercy of the press. His story is a mirror image of De Gea’s, as new to premier league first team action he also made mistakes and like De Gea was vilified by the press, with some questioning Arsene Wenger’s decision not to sign a replacement keeper.

The worst mistake was the defensive mix up between Wojciech and Laurent Koscielny which helped Birmingham to defeat Arsenal in the League Cup Final back in February 2011.

[http://www.goal.com/en-gb/news/2920/league-cup/2011/02/27/2371937/arsenal-manager-arsene-wenger-reveals-szczesny-and-koscielny]

Wojciech like David De Gea still had the Manager’s backing that they had the potential to be world-class…

Yes it certainly looks like history is repeating itself and I am so glad that these Goalkeepers have proved the press wrong and are now getting the praise they deserve.

Perhaps we owe the press a bit of thanks? Maybe Robin Van Persie should have actually given the champagne to the press? Perhaps the press actually can spot the special Goalkeepers… I.e. The ones criticised so heavily by the press… Or maybe it was such press criticism that drove both Szczęsny and De Gea on to prove them wrong? Hmm… food for thought… 😉

Punch or Catch?

In the Liverpool vs Brighton and Hove Albion FA Cup match, we saw Peter Brezovan decide to Punch out in front of Goal rather than catch the ball. The result of which was that the ball was punched out to a Liverpool player. Which then came back into the danger zone and a couple of defensive errors later the ball was in the back of the net.

The commentators suggested that he (Brezovan) should have caught the ball. And even though in a previous blog I suggested that commentators should think about doing a goalkeeper coaching course, this time I agreed with them. He was at the right height to catch the ball. What’s more if you are going to Punch the ball you should at least make sure you punch it out to a great distance or to the side of the goal. This was seen where Tom Heaton of Cardiff City against the same team, Liverpool in the Carling Cup Final, punched strongly away from goal. Or as also seen in this picture where Jamie Langfield of Aberdeen punched the ball clear after being under immense pressure from Dundee United in the CIS Cup.

image from news.bbc.uk

However sometimes making the right call of punching doesn’t work out, as David Forde of Millwall found out in the match against West Ham. It was the correct decision made to punch especially with the pressured situation he was in, however like Peter Brezovan, the execution was not great.

Let’s not hold it against these keepers, as mistakes are made and as goalkeepers we live by our decisions. Bette still that we learn from these experiences and develop. Besides, when it comes to deciding whether to punch or catch often it’s an instinctive reaction that when executed correctly has great impact.

image from youngseagulls.co.uk

Coaching punching technique is the easy part. However this is another example of how imagery scripts can help in the decision-making process. By imagining different situations and how you would react to each and in training this in the mind so that when faced with such a situation you are as ready as you can be. But that then is the difficult part as however much we train our minds there can always be ‘that’ situation that we haven’t trained for that such a split second decision is made… With 1 of 2 outcomes… We can only pray it’s a good one! 😉

Bird Spotting – The Final!

And what a Final!

The Carling Cup between the Bluebirds and the Liver Birds was intense and showed just why I was singing the praises of Cardiff City goalkeeper, Tom Heaton. Drawing the plaudits for his goalkeeping during the match and for a tremendous penalty save. Showing just why as a Goalkeeper you use every part of your body in a penalty save. Throwing out an arm to save not only a penalty, but that from a Steven Gerrard spot kick!

Let’s not overshadow Pepe Reina’s performance in the penalty shoot out. Equally as impressive. Alas though… only one of them could get the winners medal, but I think that Cardiff’s Goalkeeper was not necessarily a ‘loser’ here… As now others have seen him on one of the biggest stages. What do you reckon: International or Premiership call???

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17093419

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