Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Swansea City

Swansea

Jose Moreira

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Michel Vorm, Jose Moreira, David Cornell, Yves Makabu-Makalambay

Overview: The summer transfer window has seen a complete U-turn in fortunes for Swansea’s goalkeeping ranks. It started with the disappointment of the departure of the goalkeeper who was instrumental in getting them to the promised land of the Premier League, Dorus De Vries, but they’ve done some impressive wheeling and dealing to more than compensate for his loss. I’ve said all along that as much as he was a great servant to the club, losing De Vries isn’t the a huge loss. It would have been had the Swans not strengthened their goalkeeping ranks to such an extent. He’s a good goalkeeper, but I feel his weaknesses would have been really exposed in the Premier League. He’s a good all-rounder with good natural reflexes, is very strong in one on one situations and is always brave and committed, but also found there to be a certain lack of agility to him and he was often rather untidy with his handling.

The signing of Jose Moreira was a decent signing, but not one that totally convinced. He comes with credentials. Although there’s a lack of strength in-depth in the Portuguese league, he has managed ten years at the pressure cauldron that is Benfica and that’s not something you do without a certain amount of ability. He’s also got an international cap to his name which again doesn’t necessarily translate and guaranteed quality, but does hint at something above the ordinary. Scratch the surface however and its a little more questionable. Moreira did spend a decade in Lisbon, but for much of it was only a back-up. He averaged 11 games a season and although some of that was down to injury, he hasn’t been first choice for an extended period of time.

It’s not all bad however, He’s an athletic, robust sort of keeper who shouldn’t have too many problems adapting to the English game. I’m reluctant to use the phrase ‘good shot-stopper’, but there’s little doubt that his main skill is the ability to cover his goal. After that, the question marks start to appear. He’s not the most convincing under crosses, favouring the punch rather than the catch in the majority of cases and in general he prefers to parry away shots rather than attempting the clean sheet. The commentators and pundits can get caught up in lambasting goalkeepers for punching and parrying rather than catching, but it certainly has it’s merits and there are plenty of situations in which it’s the right decision for a goalkeeper to make. With Moreira, his utter reluctance to catch the ball crosses over the line from being a sensible call by the goalkeeper to being a bit of an issue.

The signing of Michel Vorm changes everything however and when the season comes to an end £1.5 million fee could have him mentioned as the bargain of the season. Vorm is a an excellent goalkeeper. Although comparing him with a hypothetical hybrid does a disservice to all involved, for illustrative purposes I would see him as being something of a mix between Jorge Campos and Shay Given and here’s why. He’s got the spring-heeled agility of the Mexican goalkeeping legend. He absolutely launches himself at shots and combined with his superb reflexes, he is capable of pulling off virtually miraculous saves.He’s quick off his line, incredibly brave and he has got really good hands, not dissimilar to the Irish international. It’s no surprise to see him gain international recognition and he’ll surely go on to amass more than his five caps over the next few years.

The mentioning of Campos and Given does also have some negative connotations however. Vorm is on the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to goalkeepers. His height is given as being 6ft on the nose, but as with most profiles, I think that may be a case of rounding up. As such he doesn’t have a great command of aerial situations. I’ve argued that this isn’t necessarily a terrible trait. As long as defenders know that their goalkeeper won’t be coming for a cross and it’s up to them to deal with it, confusion should be avoided. It’s something the players in front of Shay Given have had to deal with throughout his career and he has been involved in remarkably few calamities on crosses. Bigger problems arise with goalkeepers who make bad judgements of when to come for crosses and the sense of uncertainty creeps into the penalty area.

The two acquisitions mean David Cornell can go out on loan and get some much-needed first team experience. He’s a young player of immense potential, but he has long way to go and possibly a couple of loan spells away from the club before being a Premier League keeper. It also means Yves Makabu-Makalambay should see a mercifully minimal amount of playing time. At his best, the Belgian is an agile and effective keeper, but too often a howler isn’t too far around the corner.

Worst case scenario: In my opinion, the Swans have gone from a dire goalkeeping situation to one of real strength. The real concern would be that neither Moreira or Vorm settle in the English game, but even so, Brendan Rogers should be able to rotate them in such a way that he always has one who is in some kind of form.

What will probably happen: Vorm will perform well and make the difference between Swansea earning three points rather than one or one point rather than none. If there is a dip in form, Moreira can step in and more than likely do a decent job for a few games without having his weaknesses exposed to any great effect.

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