**BET £10, GET £20 FREE AT PADDY POWER – CLICK HERE**
1st Team Goalkeepers: Thomas Sorensen (36), Asmir Begovic (25), Carlo Nash (38)
If ever the benefit of having two reliable goalkeeping options need an example, Stoke’s 2011/12 campaign was it. Asmir Begovic began the season in superb form and showed why rumours of interest from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United was more than the newspapers filling gossip sections. His agility and command of his penalty area stood out as positives and he complemented the Potters’ well organised defence perfectly.
Then came a dip in form. A series of less assured performances culimanted with a calamitous performance in Stoke’s surprise 5-0 defeat to Bolton at the Reebok. With the comfort of having a tried and trusted goalkeeper in reserve, Tony Pulis took swift action and installed Thomas Sorensen as his number one. It probably didn’t feel like it at the time, but it will stand to Begovic and ultimately his desire to improve will only improve Stoke.
Begovic is still young enough to be learning his trade. His natural ability is obvious and the lapses in concentration that result in some of his errors are likely to decrease as he gets more and more playing time under his belt. It’s easy to forget that last season was essentially his first as first choice for a Premier League team.
Sorensen is one of the most experienced Premier League performers still playing. It had looked like his career was in danger of petering out on the bench, but the move to Stoke has reinvigorated him. He’s not as spritely as he was when he was younger, but his confidence and assurance is of big benefit to the club. There will be a few errors for time to time, but they should be in the tiny minority in comparison to the positive contribution he makes to the team.
Carlo Nash is the third string option and he’s a good option to have should misfortune mean he’s called into action.
Stoke are 15/8 to finish in the Top 10 of the Premier League – BET NOW
**BET £10, GET FREE £20 AT PADDY POWER – CLICK HERE**
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.