Newcastle Form Fires Krul Into World’s GK Elite

Tim Krul

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my World Goalkeeper Rankings and with 2011 drawing to a close, I wanted to round-off the year by revising my list to take into account some interesting developments in recent months. As ever, I’m trying to balance the current form with long-term performance. Knee-jerk reactions are keenly avoided – one mistake doesn’t mean you can automatically consign a goalkeeper to the category of ‘calamity’ and one great save doesn’t necessarily count for much if it’s sandwiched between bouts of uncertainty and silly errors. With that in mind here’s my end of year totally subjective and unscientific World Goalkeeping Rankings.

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
3. (6) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
4. (5) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
5. (3) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (8) Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany)
7. (4) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
8. (7) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
9. (=) Tim Krul (Newcastle and Netherlands)
10. (10) Shay Given (Aston Villa and Ireland)

Iker Casillas remains on top by virtue of his consistency and ability to bounce-back immediately from any semblance of a blip. He’s been typically reliable in Real Madrid’s surge to the top of La Liga and even in their defeat to Barcelona he was virtually foot perfect and showed leadership throughout. It’s ironic that the only goalkeeping error of El Clasico came from Victor Valdes and he ended up on the side that won with relative ease. It was a rare error from a goalkeeper with the passing skills that wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of midfield. Aside from his quality distribution, his concentration remains supreme and he’s the perfect goalkeeper for a Barcelona side seeking footballing perfection. It’s been a trying few months for their compatriot, Pepe Reina. The Liverpool goalie has been very good, but he’s been making more handling errors than we’ve become accustomed to due to the high standards he’s has achieved in the past. The mistakes were punished against Tottenham and Fulham, but there have been a smattering of other occasions when he got away with it. Reina is good enough that even when he’s not performing at his best, he’s still world-class, although slightly less world-class in recent months.

Another Premier League struggler is Petr Cech. Again, Cech has been excellent for much of the last few years, but this year has been difficult. At times he has shown the brilliance he is capable of, but hasn’t maintained it for long periods. A Chelsea defence struggling to adapt to life under Andre Villas-Boas hasn’t helped his cause and injuries has also disrupted his rhythm. He was uncharacteristically off the pace when Arsenal scored five at Stamford Bridge and at other times has been less than fluent in dealing with shots he has Again, he’s quality is not in doubt, but he’s not in his best form. Cech has bounced back from slumps in the past and there’s every reason to think a resurgence is in the pipeline.

Hugo Lloris feels like he’s been on the scene for years and it’s easy to forget that this Christmas will only bring his 25th birthday. Every time I’ve seen him, he has been hugely impressive. His reflexes, athleticism and composure are a delight to behold and as he gets older, he continues to add leadership to his box of tricks. He has been one of Europe’s best keepers for the last couple of seasons and it’s only a matter of time before he looks beyond Ligue 1 and towards the leading lights of European football for his next big challenge.

Tim Krul has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season and contrary to the views of cynics, for once that’s not a position earned by default. The competition for that accolade has rarely been more fierce, but the Magpies number 1 has been so exceptional in so many Newcastle games, he is the pick of a strong crop. More than the impact of Alan Pardew, the shrewd acquisitions of Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, Krul’s form is arguably the reason for Newcastle’s surprisingly strong start to the season. For all their attacking play and improved organisation, they would a fraction of their points haul were it not for the numerous top quality saves he has come up with high in several games so far this season. The awesome display of agility and reflexes at Old Trafford may have been his most high-profile performances of the season, but in reality he has been excellent in virtually every game. He has progressed significantly since last season. Then he looked very capable, but also anxious and too prone to bad decisions and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Now he looks more composed, mature and seems to fill his goal far more than just a few months ago. The latter point may largely be down to the psychology of perception, but Krul is understandably more confident and it’s easy to see in his on-field demeanour. He makes his debut on the list after a stunning run of form that’s impossible to ignore.

Manuel Neuer was one of the world’s best whilst still at Schalke and he has enjoyed a tremendous start to his time at Bayern Munich. He set a club record for number of minutes without conceding a goal and although that run has come to an end, he is still making significant contributions to the Bavarians’ cause. Despite being top of the table, Bayern haven’t been flawless and Neuer has been there several times to make the difference between a win and careless dropped points. Style-wise, he’s the goalkeeper most resembling Peter Schmeichel in the game at present and if he continues to progress, he should enjoy similar levels of success to the Dane.

Shay Given is another regular feature on the rankings to have switched clubs over the summer. Clearly the older Given is more susceptible to injury than ever before, but already he has shown is immense ability by pulling of some fantastic saves for Aston Villa. He’s replicated that form for Ireland (one sloppy goal conceded against Estonia aside) and remains one of the world’s best. Gigi Buffon will no doubt empathise with Given on his injury troubles. The Italian missed a large part of last season with troublesome knocks he struggled to shake off, but since returning towards the end of last term and getting a run of games under his belt, he looks like the world-class keeper of old to the point where the debate about who deserves to be Italian number 1 that recently looked valid, as been relegated to the status of being almost laughable.

David De Gea drops out of the Top 10, but I stress that it’s not an abandonment of the belief that he’s something special and he’s destined to become one of the world’s best. Despite his excellent attitude and maturity beyond his years, he has struggled to get to grips with the Old Trafford spotlight. The standards at Manchester United are so high that there is little room for error and although he impressed hugely at Atletico Madrid, it would appear he is not quite the finished article – possibly more mentally rather than technically. Joe Hart takes a minor drop for a few errors in an otherwise good season for Man City. Like the rest of the team, we didn’t see the best of him in their abridged debut participation in the Champions League and he has been subject to a couple of lapses in concentration on the domestic front. It’s been an ongoing issue with Hart and one he needs to work on. The agility, handling and authority are all there, he just needs to iron out this one major chink in his armour.

It’s difficult to omit the likes of Michel Vorm, Woijech Szczesny and Guillermo Ochoa from the list, but it has to do done. Greatness comes with consistency and although they compare favourably with some of the other names on the list, they’ve not been operating at the same level for the similar length of time. Vorm has been nothing short of brilliant for Swansea. He has pulled off some breath-taking saves and is already a leading contender for the tag of ‘buy of the season’. Ideally he’d have more command of the aerial battles that are played out in his penalty area, but he’s so strong in other areas as to compensate for this short-coming. Szczesny has been excellent for Arsenal and before Robin van Persie grabbed the season by the scruff of the neck, he was their player of the season. He made massive progress in the off-season and even when the Gunners fumbled their way through the early part of the season, he was excellent. Guillermo Ochoa is a name I predict we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the new year. His move to Ajaccio in Ligue 1 was a curious one, but not long after arriving in Corsica, it became clear he viewed it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Don’t let Ajaccio’s dreadful plight at the foot of the French top flight fool you, Ochoa has been brilliant in almost every game. He has been supremely agile with good hands and without him, they would have conceded far more than the 36 they’ve shipped in their 17 games to date. He will be going somewhere at the end of the season and it won’t be Ligue 2. Which is more than can be said for the club.

Agree, disagree or think I’ve missed out on someone?
Have your say in the comments section.

Premier League and La Liga GKs dominate latest Goalkeeper World Rankings

Guillermo Ochoa

It may have been a relatively barren summer with little by way of regular football fare, but it’s back and it’s been no sleepy start the season. It’s especially the case when it comes to the goalkeepers with a multitude of storylines to witness unfolding with fascination.

David De Gea dominated much of the goalkeeping related headlines for July and August. First there was the anticipation if seeing him line out for Manchester United in their pre-season programme. Then came the excitement of seeing him try the role in something more akin to the heat of battle with the Community Shield and the first league games as United the bid for league number 20. Sadly, it hasn’t been the start De Gea dreamed of, but although his fee comes with the expectation of near perfection, his age means a certain amount of slip-ups are to be expected. The frequency and nature of the mistakes have been surprising, but it’s too early to push the panic button. The media have once again displayed their remarkable ignorance of the goalkeeping position by essentially writing him off as a Fergie flop with immediate effect, but a less sensationalist analysis is required to thoroughly diagnose why the young Spaniard looks so far removed from the dominant nigh-on wall who impressed so for Atletico and the underage Spanish sides in recent seasons. It’s speculation on my part, but I believe his errors stem from over-thinking as a result of the realisation of the pressure at United. Having watched him closely for the guts of 2 years, I’m utterly convinced he has the ability to be a huge success at Old Trafford and he will overcome his difficulties in time. That said, at the moment his status in the Top 10 is under threat and his progress will be one of the more interesting subplots to the season.

A goalkeeper more than capable of speaking about putting short-term disappointment behind him is Shay Given and the early stages of Aston Villa career suggest his sustained period of inactivity at Manchester City hasn’t blunted his ability. Even throughout his spell of bench-warming, he was highly regarded by me and although being continually overlooked by Roberto Mancini meant he had to be eased out of the rankings, I have little difficulty in reinstating him into the Top 10. It’s a little harsh on Steve Mandanda who has really come along at Marseille, but in short – do I think Given has proven himself to be a better goalkeeper than the Frenchman? Personally I think he’s better than players higher up on the list, but time will tell if he can recapture the startling consistency that has made him one of Europe’s top goalkeepers for much of the last decade and return to his lofty position of the past.

At the top of the rankings, what we’ve seen from Iker Casillas suggests he will continue performing to the high standards now almost taken for granted. Two Super Copa games and 5 goals conceded isn’t the most compelling of stats to back up that claim, but his performances in keeping brilliant Barcelona at bay was far better than the scoreline suggested. Serie A hasn’t yet resumed so we haven’t seen Gigi Buffon, but will surely remain one of the world’s finest keepers. Petr Cech only managed one game before suffering an injury likely to keep him out for a month. That game wasn’t his most convincing and due to Pepe Reina’s good start to the season for Liverpool, the Premier League pair swap places. Hugo Lloris has been playing well for Lyon, but Manuel Neuer’s career at Bayern Munich hasn’t got off to the perfect start, either on or off the pitch. We’re more concerned about what happens on the pitch and for those reasons, he takes a slight dip in the rankings.

The most impressive performance from a goalkeeper this month came from a goalkeeper yet to break into the top 10. Guillermo Ochoa has long since been spoken about as the hottest goalkeeping property outside of Europe, so it was a surprise to many when he signed for newly promoted Corsican outfit, Ajaccio in Ligue 1. He has since explained that the move is in part to rehabilitate his reputation after allegations of doping and also as a stepping stone to one of Europe’s bigger name clubs. He may not stay with the islanders for long, but while he’s there the locals will be treated to some show. Already he has put in a couple of performances of remarkable agility and athleticism. He doesn’t yet break into the Top 10 on account if the fact I haven’t seen enough of him to be sure of his consistency, but more of the same and he’ll be there and most likely in a lofty position. He’ll have to make do with Goalkeeper of the Month honours for August.

Also in good form and narrowly missing out is Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal have had a troubled start to the season, but one major ray of sunshine has been the form of the young Pole. Over the summer, Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to make a move for a high-profile keeper was questioned, but it was always apparent that Szczesny would be his first choice and he looks to have repaid that faith by developing significantly during the close season. Confidence has never been an issue for the youngster, but his performances so far indicate he now is a more assured performer. The stunning penalty save from Antonio Di Natale in Arsenal’s Champions League was the cherry on top of the cake, but more impressive is the overall improvement in his game.

Another goalkeeper bubbling outside the Top 10 are Fernando Muslera who was simply brilliant at the Copa America. He’s another supremely talented goalkeeper who is yet to convince me of his consistency despite obvious ability. For a long time I had him pegged as something of a calamity keeper, but I’m more than willing to admit that may be an inaccurate reflection. I will follow his progress at Galatasaray keenly. Samir Handanovic of Udinese also impressed immensely in the Champions League tie with Arsenal and after getting a lot of good reports about him last season, he’ll be one to watch when the Serie A season finally gets underway.

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
3. (4) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
4. (3) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
5. (5) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
6. (6) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
7. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
8. (8) Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany)
9. (7) David de Gea (Manchester United)
10. (=) Shay Given (Aston Villa and Ireland)

Goalkeeper World Rankings

Goalkeeper World Rankings
Jan. 27th 2011

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (4) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (6) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
8. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
9. (10) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)
10. (-) Manuel Neuer (Schalke and Germany)

Casillas
“31st in the world my ass.”

These rankings are my opinion.
Unabashed, possibly biased and undoubtedly debatable opinion.
There’s not much in the way of statistics, data analysis or science.
It’s nothing more than my gut feeling after watching mountains of football and paying nerd-like attention to the goalkeepers. I fully acknowledge they’re flawed, open to discussion and quite possibly wrong.

They’re still not the worst goalkeeper rankings I’ve seen. In my own slightly biased opinion.
That honour goes to Castrol World Rankings. They were brought to my attention this week and after deciding the overall rankings weren’t completely laughable i.e. Lucas Leiva isn’t at the top with Emile Heskey pushing him close, I checked out how they rated the world’s goalkeepers. ‘Bizarrely’ is the short answer.

Now everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if it’s so wrong it’s borderline gibberish just don’t bother. Daniel Aranzubia is a good pro, but rarely in his career has he looked like one of the world’s elite. Maybe being exposed to those fumes all day long is affecting the people at Castrol. Likewise Mariano Andjuar (3rd best in the world apparently) has impressed me on occasion, but his lack of consistency over a long period of time rules him out as one of the world’s best. Here’s certainly one of the top keepers in Serie A but gone are the days when that honour automatically qualifies you as one of the word’s best. With Curci, Storari and Sorrentino to also feature towards the top of the list all of a sudden you’ve got 5 Serie A goalies in the top 11, a figure which is wrong by in the region of 4 to 5. Other major queries I’d have would be:

Julio Cesar at the top is just wrong. Ceasr is an excellent goalkeeper, but at no point in the last year, month or even week has he been better than the likes of Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar etc.
Craig Gordon at 7 – he’s playing very well, but it’s only been for a few months. Needs to have done it for a longer period of time to be that high on my list.
Cesar Sanchez at 12 – I’m not even convinced he’s the best goalkeeper at Valencia.
Marcus Hanneham at 17 – this makes him better than Petr Cech, Joe Hart and Heurelho Gomes. Again, he’s probably not even the best keeper at Wolves.
Petr Cech the 20th best goalkeeper on the planet? Which planet? He’s one of the top two on earth.
Finally – Iker Casillas at 31 in the list of keepers and 145th best player in the world overall?? Ok, now you’re just coming out with utter garbage to get attention – it’s the Sepp Blatter approach.

I didn’t actually get around to compiling my best goalkeeper of the year list last month, but regular readers will know how highly I rate Iker Casillas. It probably sounds a bit like man-crush. He should have been a genuine contender for the Ballon d’Or rather than the obligatry afterthought he appeared to be. He has carried his World Cup excellence back to Real Madrid and his crucial saves have facilitated a smooth transition to the Mourinho era at the Bernabau. One negative was the amount of picking the ball out of the net he had to do against Barcelona, but it was Barcelona at their rampant finest and concrete wall would have struggled to keep them at bay for 90 minutes. He was the best goalkeeper in December and of the Ministry’s Goalkeeper of 2010.

The rehabilitation of Peter Cech is complete. Not only has he returned to the heights of earlier in his career, but he has exceeded them. He is wiser with experience and combined with his supreme reflexes, agility and bravery he is awesome. With Chelsea struggling, there’s not much positive comment about any members of the team, but Cech has been simply outstanding. He’s a joy to watch and regardless of what happens with the Blues season, if he maintains his current levels he deserves to be considered for all end of season awards, not just the ones for goalkeepers. Reina maintains the good form that has kept Liverpool out of some serious trouble whilst Van der Sar still looks perfectly comfortable at the highest level of the game. The Dutchman’s retirement will be a huge loss to United and the fact that goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele was only half-jokingly asked by a BBC interviewer if he could convince Van der Sar to change his mind and stay for another year reflects how well he’s still playing having reached the big 40.

After a long spell out injured and an unseemly argument with the Juventus manager who suggested his reinstatement to the first team wasn’t a mere formality, Gigi Buffon has returned to action. Eyebrows were raised when he maintained his heady place in the rankings, but it’s unfair to demote someone due to injury. Sitting on the bench because you’re getting paid truckloads of money is a different matter …

That brings me on to Shay Given. I’ve been a huge fan of Given for many years, but the lack of activity in the transfer window does not paint him in the most ambitious of lights. Of course I understand that a football career is short and players need to feather their nests for a long period of earning a mere fraction of their professional days, but would the Irishman really be on the receiving end of a self-inflicted financial knee-capping if he moved to another Premier League club or major European league? Having such talent yet watching on from the bench isn’t right and Man City’s number two needs to play to prove he’s still one of the world’s best. Sporadic Europa League and international games are a start, but he should have bigger ambitions than that. Given isn’t suddenly a bad goalkeeper, we just haven’t seen enough of him. Joe Hart has been making mistakes of late and Roberto Mancini should give him a quick taste of the bench. It may not be a long term arrangement. The type of errors seem to come from complacency and a reminder that he’s not undroppable, wouldn’t be a bad idea. Hart is still a top quality keeper, but maybe we shouldn’t tell him quite so often.

Given has been dropped from the top 10 for Manuel Neuer. Ironically he hasn’t been playing a great deal lately either, but that’s got more to do with the Bundesliga winter break than anything else. His form has been crucial in Schalke’s recent surge from relegation candidates to European contenders.

Do you think any other goalkeepers deserve to be included? Leave your suggestions, abuse or praise in the comments section.

Man Utd Goalkeeper Options

Originally written on 1st Dec. for BackpageFootball.com

As responses go, the reaction to Manchester United’s signing of Anders Lindegaard has been colder than a face full of snow. Peter Schmeichel questioned if Lindegaard is of a high enough standard to command the club’s number 1 spot and several other commentators have questioned the price tag and the pedigree of the Dane. Despite his handful of caps for the Danish national side, it looks likely he’s been signed primarily for his bench-warming ability and the occasional Carling Cup or European dead rubber outing. With Edwin Van der Sar likely to hang up his gloves at the end of the season, it’s very unlikely Sir Alex will head into the new season with his goalkeeping division so devoid of top class talent – surely he’s learned his lesson from the Massimo Tiabi incident. But who’s likely to come in? Here’s a look at some of Fergie’s goalkeeping options.

David de Gea

1. David de Gea
So interested is Sir Alex in signing De Gea that he missed his first United game since the ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ era to go and watch him. At the time Fergie passed it off as a routine scouting mission to look at Valencia and Atletico Madrid talent in general, but the repeated visits of his scouts to the Vicente Calderon stadium would suggest the interest is more specific. Having broken into the first team last season, De Gea has gone from strength to strength in an inconsistent Atletico side and the reasons for Fergie’s interest are obvious. He’s agile, got good hands and commands his penalty area with an authority uncommon in goalkeepers only a handful of weeks into their twenties. As a bonus, having cut his teeth in the glare of the Madrid sports media, he should be well accustomed to the scrutiny he’ll encounter as United’s number 1.

On the negative side, he will cost a pretty penny. He’s good and Atletico know it. They’re under little pressure to sell and hung on to Fernando Torres for a couple of seasons longer than expected. Likewise, they’ve withstood the temptation to cash in on Sergio Aguero. Fergie would have to part with around £20 million for De Gea and with that pricetag comes real pressure. One bad game would bring a blizzard of criticism and for a young man in a strange country, it’d be interesting to see how he would react. He hasn’t really endured a significant dip in form to date and if he made some errors early on in his Old Trafford career, it would be interesting to see how he responds. He’d be a great signing for United and if all goes well, could make the spot his own for the next 15 years. But if it doesn’t, it would be a costly error.

Manuel Neuer

2. Manuel Neuer
Let’s get this clear – making a comparison to the Great Dane, does not necessarily mean he’s in the same class as the United legend. Neuer is merely very similar in style to Schmeichel. You won’t find pictures of either in books about goalkeeping technique, but they get the job done. The German has the unorthodox effectiveness that made Schmeichel such a world class keeper. He’s aggressive, his reflexes are top drawer and his physique will be well suited to the demands of the Premier League. He stays big in one on ones and will throw himself courageously at the feet of opponents when the situation requires it. One negative may be his handling, both in dealing with shots and collecting crosses. It’s not always perfect and he sometimes needs a couple of grabs to secure a ball. Similar to the De Gea however, his club are in no hurry to sell and will come with a substantial price tag. Judging by their recent recruitment policy and their loyal following, Schalke are in a healthy financial state. He’ll be expensive, but for such a young goalkeeper, he’s got the high level experience that could justify such an outlay.

Hugo Lloris

3. Hugo Lloris
Followers of the rumour mill will know that Europe’s top clubs have been sniffing around Hugo Lloris for the last couple of years. Moves to Serie A and La Liga have been mooted, but for a time during the summer, a move to a certain French enclave in North London was looking likely. Nothing came to pass and Lloris remains a big fish in the relatively small pond of Ligue 1. He has obvious appeal because despite being just 23, Lloris has amassed over 150 senior appearances and – thanks to his time at Lyon – has sampled plenty of Champions League football. This season has been more of a struggle for the French giants, but Lloris has avoided much of the criticism. He is without doubt a world class goalkeeper. He’s an excellent shot-stopper and his reflexes are superb. His hands and footwork have the technical hallmarks of the famed French coaching system and if there is an Achilles heel, it comes in the form of the difficult-to-teach area of judging crosses. When he does get there, he’s usually good to catch the ball or get a vital hand to it, but he has on occasion completely misjudged the flight of the ball and been left a spectator to the action in his own goalmouth. There’s a potential problem for Fergie if he’s serious about Lloris. If word gets out that he’s available – and club chairman Jean Michel Aulus isn’t exactly renowned for keeping quiet – it’s likely to trigger a bidding war and seriously inflate the price. In this case however, Lyon are renowned as a selling club and they may decide to cash in sooner rather than later. The last time Fergie opted for the French number 1, the results were very much mixed. It’s interesting to know if he’s tempted to go back to this particular well another time.

Shay Given

4. Shay Given
The most controversial and left field of Fergie’s options. The United/City rivalry has moved beyond something Sky Sports emphasize to flog a generally meaningless game. The cash injection has meant City’s aspirations go beyond bragging rights and as such United are a genuine rival rather than a Goliath waiting for a bloodied nose. That may be one obstacle in a potential move, but if selling to a direct rivals was a concern, then the move to Arsenal probably wouldn’t have been mentioned as seriously as it was. In the end it appeared to be Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to do business that scuppered the move. The situation at City has been rough on Given. He remains better than about 85% of the goalkeepers in the Premier League, but it just so happens that Joe Hart is better than about 90% of goalkeepers in the Premier League. The Irishman turns 35 next year, but that shouldn’t be a worry for Fergie as there’s no real depreciation in his talents. Any fumbles or slight mishaps he has had for Ireland or on the rare occasion he does get a game for City look to be as a result of rustiness rather than the onset of age. He should come quite cheap and he’s a proven Premier League performer. He may not be seen as a long term solution, but then again, people were probably saying the same thing about a certain Dutchman a few years back.

Van der Sar

5. Edwin Van der Sar
United’s current first choice is now in his fourth decade of professional football, but on the outside at least doesn’t seem to have lost his appetite for the game. It’s thought to be an open secret that Van der Sar will be retiring at the end of this season (so open that one of United’s coaches was talking about it openly a couple of months back)but in terms of ability, he’s got at least another season of top class football in him. With his wife suffering health problems last year, the Dutchman has a vaild reason to feel it’s time to call it a day and go about the business of enjoying life, but if it’s a possibility, Fergie could do worse than testing the Dutchman’s resolve. Much was made of his costly error against West Brom earlier in the season, but that was the type of concentration based mistake van der Sar was making in his twenties and thirties and not a result of age. Aside from that, he has been in fine form and his saves have directly earned United several points they would have otherwise dropped. Such has been the strength of his displays, that if he was still available to Bert van Marwijk, there’s every chance he’d remain first choice for the Oranje. It may only postpone a difficult decision about a long term successor for another season, but sticking with an old hand wouldn’t be the worst of options.

Goalkeeper World Rankings

The Ministry’s Top Ten Goalkeepers In The World

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (4) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (7) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (6) Shay Given (Man City and Ireland)
8. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
9. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
10. (-) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

For yet another month, there can be little debate about Iker Casillas at the top of our Goalkeeper World Rankings. Critics may point to a costly error at the San Siro that handed AC Milan a goal, but on that occasion, it was a handling error accentuated by over-aggression and over confidence. Anticipating a cross along the six yard box, he took a step off his line, only to be left virtually stranded as the pass was skewed towards goal. His other performances in the last month were largely flawless however and he has plenty going for him in the pro column. Not for the first time, it’s the quality of his saves rather than overwhelming quantity that makes him so impressive. With Real’s new Galacticos routinely dismantling opponents, his involvement is kept to a minimum, but time over time throughout November he came up trumps for his team when called upon. His concentration is supreme and a great addition to his obvious athleticism. His performance could be the decisive factor in the first Clasico of the season on Monday,

Chelsea’s swift reversal of fortune has been dramatic, but the sudden glut of balls Petr Cech is now picking out of his net are no reflection on his performances. Throughout the crisis, he has remained firm and in actual fact minimized the impact of the faltering defence in front of him.

In an interesting twitter exchange with Shaka Hislop, we learned the former Newcastle and West Ham goalkeeper thinks our #3, Gigi Buffon is “well past his best”. It seems a harsh assessment for a players we haven’t seen since the World Cup in June, but clearly there’s something in the Italians game that Hislop has identified as being a concern. By his own admission, the Trinidad and Tobago international said he felt a deterioration in his own performance at around the age of 36 or 37 whilst he was still at Upton Park. Although it feels like he’s been around since the advent of the wheel, Buffon doesn’t turn 33 until next January. That would give a few more years in his relative prime to defy the predictions of Hislop. For the time being at least, we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt and leaving him largely untouched in the World Rankings until he eventually returns from injury.

Elsewhere on the list, there is little change. Pepe Reina is performing well behind a misfiring Liverpool team and something similar can be said of the 40 year old Edwin van der Sar. Shay Given continues to slide based almost solely on his inability to usurp Joe Hart in the Man City team. Hart is doing little wrong and with Mancini struggling to keep fans onside, he may just stick with the residual benefit that comes from sticking with the Englishman.

David de Gea makes his first appearance on the World Rankings list after another strong month, taking the Spanish representation to 4. Atletico Madrid are being their typically inconsistent selves, but were it not for his performances, they’d be simply be their atypical woeful selves. As we’ve said many times in the past, De Gea looks to have the complete package and one thing that’s stood out over the last few games is his desire to take command in his penalty area. It’s standard for most experienced keepers, but for man who only a few weeks ago left his teenage years, it’s impressive. Igor Akineev is the goalie to drop out of the Top 10. A few weeks ago we expressed concern about his handling and over reliance on punching when Ireland hosted Russia in a Euro 2012 qualifier and our follow up scouting missions of CSKA Moscow games found this to be the norm rather than the exception. It’s probably rather telling that speculation linking him with a move to Europe’s top clubs has died down in recent months.

The keeper of the month award goes to Casillas with Cech and De Gea occupying the places. He’ll no doubt be delighted.

World Goalkeeper Rankings

Current Position (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (4) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (2) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (3) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (6) Shay Given (Man City and Ireland)
7. (9) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
8. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
9. (10) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
10. (7) Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow and Russia)

Another month, another month of by and large confirming what we already knew. If that’s not a saying, then the Ministry Of Glove are doing our doing our best to bring it into more common usage. In our monthly look at the top goalkeepers in the world, we find that very little has changed.

Iker Casillas still tops the ranking and his appearance on the shortlist of nominees for the Ballon d’Or didn’t do his status much harm. Under Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid have wasted little time in developing that main characteristic of all the Special One’s teams – an excellent defence. Casillas has benefited from the improvement in the rearguard, but equally he’s still making those vital contributions to save his team-mates when they do suffer from the occasional lapse. He’s conceded just four times in eight La Liga games this term and in such an attack-minded league, that’s no mean feat. A couple of months into the season, he’s also notched up a sizeable collection of clean sheets. A continuation of that form could give Real the edge they need to overhaul Barcelona at the top of the standings.

Petr Cech is another to benefit from improved defending in front of him, but again, he’s not exactly sitting back and having a nap during games. He’s making crucial saves at crucial times and seems to have recaptured that sense of invincibility he exuded in the early stages of his time with Chelsea. He’s been beaten just twice in nine league games this season and should the Blues keep Blackburn at bay at the weekend, their goalie will have gone through the month of October without conceding. It’s an impressive record and anyone with an appreciation of the art of the custodian can’t help but enjoy the Czech’s renaissance.

Joe Hart continues to impress and moves upward, albeit with a caveat. His shot-stopping is top drawer, exemplified by an excellent penalty save from Cesc Fabregas in the recent game with Arsenal, but there have to be some doubts about his performance in one-on-one situations. Hart tends to hit the ground a fraction too early, again a habit visible on a couple of occasions in that same Arsenal game. Staying more upright for slightly longer would give him a better chance of coming out on top in these situations. He’s getting the benefit of the doubt in this case because it no matter how upright he was against the Gunners, it may have made little difference to the eventual outcome. It’s an issue with his technique that we’ll keep an eye on.

Igor Akinfeev moves in the opposite direction. Limited coverage of the Russian Premier League makes it tricky to fully track his progress and when we did get a proper look at him when Russia took on Ireland in a Euro 2012 qualifiers, he failed to impress. The visitors looked fantastic as they carved up the Irish, but he came away from the game with little credit. His handling was suspect, his tendency to punch rather than catch almost landed his team in trouble and his flustered performance did little to help his defenders when they needed him most. It may seem harsh to criticize so heavily after just one game, but there was something about the performance that suggested this was more akin to the norm rather than a rare blip. The fact that Sir Alex Ferguson has seemingly long since dropped his interest in favour of David de Gea tells us all we need to know.

Aside from those movers, there’s very little activity. There’s still no sign of Gigi Buffon making a return from the injury he picked up at the World Cup so it’s harsh to penalise him to any real extent. Hugo Lloris is suffering a torrid time with a struggling Lyon, but by and large he avoids much of the blame for the problems. Edwin van der Sar dropped a costly clanger towards the start of the month, but as we’ve outlined before, that looks to be a rare lapse and not a sign of his imminent demise.

Latest Goalkeeper News

Goalkeeper News

FastGlove
– After Robert Green aimed some choice gestures towards the journalistic corps at Upton Park last weekend, Hammers owner David Gold explains that there was “no malice” in it. We tend to disagree. Anyhoo, it would appear Green knows about as much about gesticulation as he does about holding onto a tamely struck shot. According to anthropologist, Desmond Morris, although the ‘Phallic Forearm Jerk’ is understood as an insult on the continent, in England it’s generally applied as “a crude form of sexual admiration”. We’re pretty sure that’s not what Green intended. Unless of course he has a more extreme plan for getting back into the journalists’ good books.

– In more Green related hilarity, Avram Grant says Green’s one good performance of the year is basically good enough to get him back into the national side. What’s more worrying for England is he’s not a million miles off the mark.

– Some good news in an otherwise bleak season for Shay Given. He avoids a driving ban for being nabbed doing 75mph in a 50mph zone. It’s not the the biggest speeding violation we’ve heard of involving a footballer, but it’s is substantially faster than the progress his career is making at present.

– In our now weekly piece entitled ‘which terrible goalkeeper is Arsene Wenger defending now?’ Arsene Wenger explains why blah, blah, … Fabianski …. rubbish … Almunia … worse .. To be honest, we stopped listening a couple of weeks ago.

– Oh to be young and naïve once again. David de Gea says he won’t be leaving Atletico Madrid for Man Utd because he’s got a contract until 2013. Oh David, you’ve got a lot to learn about the ways of the world and more importantly, how Fergie operates.

– And finally in the bit we’re cleverly calling our ‘and finally’ bit, here’s some footage of a goalie going a bit mental. It’s Khalid Askri of Moroccan side, FAR Rabat. Not long after falling foul to the incredible spinning ball, he has enough and storms off the pitch in style.