Premiership goalies are struggling

Jens Lehmann. Paul Robinson. David James. Brad Friedel. Tony Warner. Antti Niemi. Steven Bywater. Jussi Jaskalainen.
A number of big name and not so big name goalies are having a torrid time under the crossbar. Most of them are their own mistakes with some proving costly to their team. This comes at a time when there have been quite a few surprise results in the Premiership which has resulted in a fairly open looking table.
Jens Lehmann: A blunder gave Fulham an early lead but Arsenal were able to pull of a win. An even worse blunder against Blackburn led the Rovers to a draw. Arsenal should have been at the top of the table. So far Wenger’s decision to bench Lehmann and bring in Almunia has yielded results as the Spaniard has done little wrong.
Paul Robinson has been caught hopelessly off position time and time again leading many Spurs and England fans to question his judgement. His starting place is in jeopardy.
David James: The England goalie who was chosen by McLaren for the Germany game ahead of Robinson made a horrible tackle on Van Persie in the Portsmouth match leading to an equally horrible non-attempt at stopping the ensuing penalty kick.
Brad Friedel: The game against Arsenal was not his finest. His mistake led to an early RVP goal. He was lucky that his Arsenal counterpart was even worse with his mistake leading to a David Dunn equalizer.
Tony Warner: After doing quite well against Arsenal as a last minute replacement for an injured Niemi, Warner had a nightmare against Middlesborough. He was replaced by Kasey Keller for the Aston Villa match.
Antti Niemi: Niemi got back for the Spurs game but his return was marred by a Younes Kaboul goal that came from an inept attempt at clearing a corner.
Steven Bywater: The Derby defence can make any goalie look bad but Bywater did not look like he was helping matters by reacting too late or not at all against Liverpool and Spurs. The Reds cut him and the Rams into paper mache dolls.
Jussi Jaskalainen: The Bolton goalie had a forgettable match against Portsmouth as Kanu and Utaka ran circles around him. He was out of position against Newcastle as N’Zogbia and Martins cracked long distance goals.
So is this just an aberrant start to an early season or is there something more to it. One factor is that the big summer signings in attack have all by and large panned out. Torres, Voronin, Babel, Nani, Malouda, Roque Santa Cruz, Claudio Pizarro, Mido, Utaka, and others have justified their transfers. So goalies are subject to a lot more pressure in a league that is churning out goals at a rapid clip. Errors in judgement get compounded by a fast reacting attack. This despite the fact that last season’s high scoring team Man Utd is struggling to find the back of the net.
A number of goalies are also subjecting themselves to more pressure as they look behind them at their competition. Lehmann knows that he faces a challenge as Wenger signed Fabianski in the first summer signing for Arsenal. Robinson has David James, Scott Carson, and Ben Foster lining up for England squad positions as he is subject to greater scrutiny in the domestic league. These goalies have never been known for their calm at the back.
With crowded backfields as an obvious tactic to stop a more probing attack, long range shots are being tried by players increasingly to test the goalies. The element of surprise and unpredictability have found goalies out of position or weakly parrying the ball into their own goal or back into harm’s way. Tony Warner against Mido in the Middlesborough match is a classic example. Even Arsenal that usually waits till the nth moment till they are within breathing distance of the goal seems to have developed an early trigger.
Goalies no longer have to just get distracted by forwards but on corners and free kicks it is defenders who are leading the way with goals. Joleon Lescott, Zat Knight, Younes Kaboul, have found the net. The margin for error goes down.
Of course, the converse is also true. All these scoring options provide an opportunity for spectacular goal keeping. So far we have seen some great goalkeeping from the talented youngsters Kasper Schmeichel and Craig Gordon.

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One comment on “Premiership goalies are struggling
  1. An odd explanation might be the ball. What ball is the EPL using? Adidas +Teamgeist?
    If so, there is part of the reason…the +Teamgeist is a striker’s dream come true. See http://www.soccerballworld.com/Teamgeist.htm. There is one statement there that is misleading though: the flight characteristics are “true.” I am not sure “true” is the word, but it is very different. The ball is nearly seamless creating a rounder ball. A rounder ball “knuckles” more (which is why golf balls have dimples and a “knuckleball” in baseball is a ball that does not spin). There were complaints from the goalies in the World Cup which I doubted at first, but playing with this ball (I have an MLS practice ball) will tell you there is something to it.

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