At first glance, Jan Mucha’s decision to sign for Everton seems a strange one, but clearly he’s a man fond of a challenge.
Since joining the Toffees, Tim Howard has seriously rehabilitated the shaky reputation he earned during his stint as Man Utd No. 1 and is now justifiably considered one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers. With David Moyes showing no obvious signs of displeasure with his current first choice, it’s going to take a massive effort from Mucha to displace the American.
Perhaps if he had known Slovakia would enjoy an extended stay in South Africa and he would impress over the course of the four games, Mucha may have held off and taken his chances as a free agent afterwards. As it was, he was offered the chance to sign for an upwardly mobile Premier League side last January and the temptation is understandable.
Likewise, you can’t blame Moyes for the move. Mucha was available on a free transfer and building strength in depth is seldom a bad idea, but it looks like he should brace himself for a sustained period of bench-warming. Considering he’s from the same club that gave us Lukasz Fabianski, it may not be the biggest surprise. As first choice for Polish giants, Legia Warsaw he has experience of European competition and the scrutiny that comes with being at a high profile club. He was part of a Legia side that has had a miserly defence in the Polish Ekstraklasa, but little silverware to show for it. It’s folly to read too much into a goalkeeper’s ability from the team’s defensive record, but it is encouraging nonetheless.
There’s no doubt that he is a talented young keeper. At 27, he can afford to take a couple of years to get used to the unique challenge of the Premier League yet still not see his opportunity pass him by. And there are things he’ll need to work on in the intervening period. Both his decision-making and judgment under the high ball are suspect, although that’s something you can say about virtually all goalkeepers. With the ball at his feet he can be ponderous and in the rollercoaster speed of a typical Premier League game, he won’t be afforded that time. Obviously it’s not all bad and one thing that stands out is his awareness. He’s quick to come off his line and tidy up and alert to the possibility of launching a quick counter-attack. He also has an unorthodox style about him, but his sharp reflexes mean he largely gets the job done.
All in all, it looks to be a curious step to take. Maybe there are whispers that bigger fish in the English pond clubs are interested in Tim Howard and David Moyes is ensuring he has adequate and experienced cover because other than that, first team opportunities look to be thin on the ground for Mucha. Maybe a loan spell somewhere is on the cards for him in the short term, but he certainly looks capable of operating in the Premier League. Whether or not he gets sick of those splinters before getting his chance with Everton remains to be seen.