Goalkeeping Musical ChairsJune 19, 2015
Growing up I adored the art of goalkeeping. Well, I still do, albeit not as enthusiastically. Back then I was a goalkeeper the moderately few times I ventured onto the football pitch or at our front yard. You could say I made a decent shot stopper. I could say, nay I’m actually saying I was brilliant at it. The very best, really. Erm, in my mind that is. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you see it, I got bored of being rooted at some point, burning under the sweltering sun waiting to be called upon to make a save at the same time hoping to avert that possibility eventually. That said, I retained a strong interest in it.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? There’s a serious goalkeeping merry go round with serious ramifications on the oncoming season. To be precise it actually began last summer and it would seem the fissures created by that custodial movement haven’t been filled up wholly. Here’s a recap of what happened last summer: Chelsea decided that ThibautCourtois, fresh from his title winning exploits with Atletico Madrid had come of age, despite them still boasting in their ranks, PetrCech. Arsenal moved Lukasz Fabianski on to Swansea City, replacing him with Nice’s David Ospina. Manchester United snapped up Victor Valdez after opting out of Barcelona who on the other hand replaced him with Moenchengladbach stopper, Marc Andre TerStegen and Real Sociedad’s Claudio Bravo. Real Madrid would move on Diego Lopez to AC Milan in a bid to reinstate Iker Casillas fully…only that they would again rope in KeylorNavas from Levante. Bayern Munich got Pepe Reina from Napoli to back up Manuel Neuer and Atleti did replace Courtois with Jan Oblak and Miguel Angel Moya.
This summer too may be fraught with such if not more upheavals. Therefore the notion of keepers being the forgotten men of the game is well and truly being swept aside, going by the interest generated and the effects of such moves on the various competitions. David De Gea. The Spanish shot stopper has been the stand out performer for United for the past two seasons and is widely regarded as the Premier League’s best even though the statistics don’t really support that claim. Real Madrid want him, very much obviously. He also wants to become the undisputed Spain number one. To achieve that he has to unseat Iker Casillas from both roles.
That Casillas is an enigma is not in doubt. He’s won it all. Also, his ability has waned over time much as he’s still a top stopper. You get the feeling that with Casillas it’s all about the coach having both the balls and the support from the Madrid top brass to dispense with him. Jose Mourinho tried and failed. Carlo Ancelotti tried (half-heartedly) and gave up. What will the new man Rafael Benitez do? Will he be the new broom that finally sweeps away San Iker clean? If we are being honest, either of Diego Lopez and KeylorNavas should have usurped Iker by now. De Gea is good enough, is ready, and is the future. Really, it is his time. Will Casillas leave? That’s the real issue. I would think he should, but hey, I’m no saint like he is.
ThibautCourtois is the undisputed number one at the Bridge, no doubt about that. It has been obvious that the great PetrCech would leave this summer and indeed speculation has been rife that he’s headed across town to Arsenal. Intriguing, this, for some reasons. First, Jose wouldn’t sell to Arsene Wenger even a virus. Secondly, Arsenal already have two keepers who could well lay claim in the first choice role in WojciechSzczesny and David Ospina. The former has just enjoyed a stellar first season at the club. Why would the manager want to complicate things further by bringing in one of the division’s premier custodians? Now, I’ll speak as a Gooner. Ospina hasn’t convinced me that he’s any better than Szczesny. Sorry, that’s the way I see it. The Pole on the other hand is the one I regard as the future of Arsenal. He’s grown in the club, got an early breakthrough and took it. He’s had problems. Lapses of concentration, smoking, selfies, you name it. And in truth, he’s been annoying. But he has the quality. The timing for him just hasn’t been right. Do we need Cech? Totally. We want to win the league. Cech is the kind of keeper to turn those lost or drawn matches into wins, while at the same time buying the time as Woj clears his head and gets ready. Sign him, Arsene.
Also, allegedly, Tottenham Hotspur seems to fancy signing Cech on learning that he would prefer to remain in London. Lol. On top of that, their guy, Hugo Lloris is whetting his appetite at the prospect of replacing De Gea at United, a role which I for one think would suit his reputation and standing as one of Europe’s finest and captain of France. So it’s little bit kind of a waiting game, to see if Real Madrid actually snaps up Dave and a vacancy emerges. Then again maybe Louis Van Gaal has different ideas. He may well make Valdez number one and seek a lesser profile keeper as back up. Then Lloris would be stuck with Spurs and the interest in Cech would amount to nothing. If you ask me, that would be the best outcome in all this. Heh!
Across the borders at SabenerStrasse in Munich, a certain Sven Ulreich has joined from Vfb Stuttgart. Now as much as Bayern is among the top three European elite clubs, it’s difficult to grasp the rationale of a 26 year-old number one at his club joining to understudy the best in the world, Manuel Neuer who is only 30. Neuer is bound to be around for at least the next five years, and when he leaves, Bayern won’t be enthused by the prospect of promoting his deputy. So, anyway, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Ulreich to elucidate further.
At rivals Dortmund, Neuer’s understudy at the national team Roman Weidenfeller lost his place in the course of last season to Mitch Langerak. Then again it would appear the powers-the-be at the club and more so the new boss Thomas Tuchel aren’t really convinced by the Aussie. Hence Roman Burki has been signed in the close season from Freiburg. The 24-year old Swiss obviously hasn’t agreed to come to Westfallen to play second fiddle to the other two. Yeah, this is going to be an almighty fight for the number one jersey. Maybe Weidenfeller will leave. Or maybe not.
Either way it promises to be an intriguing summer with regards to the least intriguing role in football. Let the chips fall.