Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Stoke

Stoke

Asmir Begovic

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Asmir Begovic, Thomas Sorensen, Carlo Nash

Overview: At the moment Stoke would appear to have the perfect blend in their goalkeeping ranks. They’ve got the immensely talented emerging youngster and the reliable old hand who’ll exert just enough pressure on him to make sure standards continue to rise. Having been on the verge of leaving the club in the not so distant past, Begovic has completed a remarkable turnaround. Not only did Tony Pulis keep his services, but he’s gone on to relegate tried and trusted Premier League performer Thomas Sorensen to the role of substitute. Sadly the ideal situation may not last for long as Sorensen realises ‘if I’m going to get paid for sitting on the bench, I may as well be paid rather a lot for sitting on the bench’. He’s been linked with a move to Man City to provide cover for Joe Hart and although the aspiration of every professional footballer is to play football, he may just be at a point in his career when his post-playing days are at the forefront of his mind and the temptation to pick up a couple of years worth of big cheques before retirement must be tempting. Likewise, Begovic’s performances have alerted some of the Premier League’s powers to his potential and there have been whispers of interest from clubs who’ll expect to be towards the top of the table end season’s end.

As it stands, it’s a healthy situation for the Potters. Begovic is a hugely talented keeper capable of commanding his penalty area with authority. He’s exceptionally agile and the best thing for Stoke is he clearly still has some improve to do. The public often assume that younger goalkeepers learn off the older goalkeepers at the club. I’m not convinced that’s always true (for example, you wouldn’t really want a young goalkeeper copying Peter Schmeichel’s technique too closely). It may be the case at Stoke and Begovic may have garnered lots of useful tidbits from watching Sorensen, but the chief benefit for the squad is the young man knows that behind him is a goalkeeper who can perform in the Premier League and any drop in standards or work rate will be punished with a swift trip to the subs’ bench.

Worst case scenario: Losing a sub goalie is rarely a major cause for concern, but if Sorensen goes, the dynamic within the Stoke goalkeeping ranks changes substantially. If the Dane leaves, the motivation for Begovic to keep improving is reduced. In his own head he may feel that he’s working as hard as ever, but – with all due respect to Carlo Nash – Begovic doesn’t have a credible rival for the first choice position and may take the foot off the pedal a bit. The worry would be complacency settling in and a few silly mistakes entering his game in a manner not too dissimilar to Joe Hart at Man City last season.

What will probably happen: Sorensen stays and Begovic will continue to improve in the knowledge that if he doesn’t there’s a player there to take his place.

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