Federici has a big part to play in Reading’s top flight return



1st Team Goalkeepers: Adam Federici (27), Alex McCarthy (22), Mikkel Andersen (21), Jonathon Henly (19)

A lot like the club he plays for, Adam Federici returns to the Premier League looking like a stronger and more streamlined version of what we saw a few years ago. Reading have had a couple of years in the wilderness, but last season’s form suggests they’re well able for life in the Premier League. The same can be said for the Australian.

The ‘chubby keeper’ cliché can be frustrating, but there’s no doubt that Federici was a little on the heavy side in recent seasons. He was still incredibly agile and his reactions got him out of a lot of trouble, but he has shed the extra pounds and his performances have benefited from it. He retains his ability and he’s coming into his prime. If the Royals are to avoid going straight back down, Federici’s good form is going to need to continue. The good news is, there’s every chance it will.

Behind him in the pecking order is Alex McCarthy. Thanks to Federici’s declining weight, McCarthy has been forced to wait for his chance. McCarthy has been on the radar as a hot prospect for a few years now, but he hasn’t had too many chances at the Madjeski Stadium. The young Englishman has been at the club since 2007 and no less than eight loan spells elsewhere in a bid to build up his experience. On a number of those spells, he’s impressed and he is genuine competition for the starting role at Reading. He’s tall, agile, assertive and his handling is assured. He really is player of immense potential and should be able to fill in if Federici struggles or is unavailable.

Mikkel Andersen has a very similar profile to McCarthy. He’s young, talented and been shipped out to build up his experience. Again, he has been praised for his performances during this loan spells, but he’s unlikely to get too much playing time in the Premier League this season. Another loan spell is likely.

There’s a lot of things to be happy about as Brian McDermott looks to re-establish the Royals in the Premier League. If Federici delivers, that task will be a whole lot easier. If he doesn’t, it could be a big year for McCarthy. Either way, Reading have a strong hand when it comes to their custodians.

Reading are 4/7 to avoid relegation from the Premier League – BET NOW


Joe Hart is crucial for Manchester City’s title defence


Manchester City

1st Team Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (25), Costel Pantilimon (25), Gunnar Nielsen (25)

Last year was about as good as it gets for Manchester City, but aside from bagging their first Premier League title, there were encouraging signs from the goalkeeping ranks. Joe Hart combined his ability with increased maturity and was duly voted into the PFA’s Team of the Season. There can be few arguments and his contributions were vital in what turned out to be the closest title race of the Premier League era. Prior to last year’s success, Hart had something of a tendency to lose concentration on occasion, but there was little evidence of the flaw last season.

Behind him is the sizeable presence of Costel Pantilimon. He was limited to appearances in the domestic cup competitions in his first season with the club, but he impressed on his handful of appearances and the loanee was signed up permanently in December of last year. Despite standing over two metres tall, he’s incredibly quick and agile and should Joe Hart be unavailable, he’s a more than able deputy. He lacks the experience of Hart, but based on ability alone, City fans won’t be too worried if he’s called into action. There was a timely reminder of the consistency he needs to achieve to truly challenge Hart in the Community Shield. Filling in for the injured first choice, his fumbling of a simple shot gifted Chelsea a goal. It wasn’t a costly error, but more a sign of how important Hart’s form is to City.

Gunnar Nielsen was actually released by the club at the end of the 2011-12 season, but with long time back-up, Stuart Taylor opting to leave on a free, the club moved quickly to re-sign the Faroe Islands international.

Interestingly, City have also been linked with a move for emerging star, Jack Butland. With Hart and Pantilimon at their disposal, you’d have to think it’s an unnecessary purchase, but if it was to happen, it would make City’s goalkeeping options very strong.

Manchester City are 11/8 to win the Premier League – BET NOW


A make or break season expected for Reina and Liverpool



1st Team Goalkeepers: Pepe Reina (29), Doni (32), Brad Jones (30), Peter Gulasci (22)

It’s a big season for Liverpool, especially when it comes to their goalkeeping ranks. Pepe Reina has been a brilliant acquisition for the club, but he’ll want to see progress under Brendan Rodgers or the option of joining a more competitive squad will start to appeal. He is renowned for his ambition and scrambling around for a Europa League place isn’t likely to quench his thirst for success. There have been whispers of a possible departure in the past and we can expect them to re-emerge should the Rodgers Revolution struggle to take hold.

Last season wasn’t Reina’s best for Liverpool, but given the club’s difficulties both on and off the pitch, it wasn’t a major talking point. He was a little more sloppy with his handling than we’ve come to expect, but his talent makes these blips fairly insignificant in comparison to his considerable strengths. He’s still one of the very best goalkeepers in the world and even a dip in form doesn’t take much away from his fantastic ability.

After Reina got sent off against Newcastle, which gave Alexander Doni a chance to stake his claim to be a starter, but that didn’t last long as he was dismissed in the next game against Blackburn. It could happen to anyone, but it was a big blow to the Brazilian who has repeatedly made noises about wanting to usurp Reina as first choice. With his vast experience, he’s a very useful option to have in reserve, but if he gets a chance in future, he’ll need to be more disciplined than we’ve seen previously.

Brad Jones was the eventual beneficiary of all the suspensions towards the end of the season and he got an unexpected appearance in an FA Cup semi-final. His time in the limelight was especially heart-warming after his five year old son, Luca died from leukemia last November. He started Liverpool’s first Europa League game of the season and although he won’t start ahead of Reina for the league campaign, it’s a sign that Rodgers probably sees him as the number two ahead of Doni.

Peter Gulasci is the up and coming goalkeeper of the squad. He has had several loan spells since joining the club in 2008 and he’s likely to be shipped out once more as he looks to build up his experience.

Liverpool are 21/10 to finish in Top 4 of the Premier League – BET NOW


Tim Howard remains an important part of Everton progress



1st Team Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (33), Jan Mucha (29)

Despite the arrival of Jan Mucha in 2010, Tim Howard remains the undisputed number one at Goodison Park. After a good World Cup, it had been thought that the Slovakian international would push the American hard for the starting berth, but the challenge hasn’t really materialised and Howard has been an important part of Everton’s consistent progress under David Moyes.

Howard is a solid Premier League veteran at this stage. His reflexes are top class, his agility is good and his goalscoring record isn’t bad for a goalkeeper either. There’s no doubt that every now and then, he makes a costly error, but as he gets older, the frequency of his mistakes seems to be reducing. As frustrating as he can occasionally be, he earns Everton far more points than he costs them.

Mucha has had to be content with bench-warming for most of his time with the club. He has five run outs in the Artist Formerly Known As The Carling Cup to his name, but when it comes to league action, Moyes has steadfastly stuck with Howard as his first choice.

Should Everton suffer a long term injury to one of their goalkeepers, their lack of depth could be exposed. As they saw with their local rivals last season, out of nowhere, you can suddenly find yourself relying on your back-up keepers and behind Howard and Mucha Everton are looking at academy players. That’s not ideal, but they could count themselves as being very unfortunate if it has a big bearing on their season.

Everton are 16/5 to finish in Top 6 of the
Premier League – BET NOW


Cech once again needs to deliver for Chelsea



1st Team Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (30), Henrique Hilario (36), Ross Turnbull (27), Thibaut Courtois (20) [on loan at Atletico Madrid], Matej Delac (19) [on loan at Vitoria Guimaraes]

Petr Cech’s excellent performances in Chelsea’s remarkable run to Champions League glory seemed to put paid to the sporting obituaries that were being prematurely penned for him. During that run, he pulled of heroics to keep Benfica, Napoli and Barcelona at bay and followed it up with a brilliant performance in the final against Bayern Munich. Then he went to the European Championship and the concerns resurfaced. The goal he gifted Greece in the group stages gave the detractors more evidence to suggest he’s on a decline.

That’s harsh, but there’s no doubt that Cech is less reliable than he once was. In particular, he seems to be too conscious of putting his head in dangerous places. When a task involves getting down low at the feet of attackers, he seems hesitant, almost as if he fears the prospect of physical contact. It leads to him momentarily losing concentration and it has cost Chelsea goals.

Overall however, he’s still a world-class performer. If he is to return to his best form, he will need to rediscover that fearlessness he showed in his first few years at Chelsea. It’s a lot easier said than done, especially knowing another incident like the one with Stephen Hunt would put his life, let alone career, in jeopardy. Even if he doesn’t reach those heights, he’s good enough to be a solid performer and one of the best keepers in the league.

His successor will be Thibaut Courtois. The young Belgian is learning his trade with Atletico Madrid for another season, but such is his progress the temptation to bring him back to the Bridge must be strong. The 20 year old impressed many with his maturity and consistency in Madrid last season and he is undoubtedly one of the best young keepers in the world. All in all however, playing the long game is the right way to go as the benefit of having him play another season in one of the world’s best leagues will reap dividends in the future.

One player who might take issue with the ‘Courtois as Cech’s successor’ theory is Ross Turnbull. Since arriving from Middlesbrough, he has found his opportunities limited. As he approaches his late 20s, he’ll be eager to establish himself as starter and that’s unlikely to happen at Chelsea. He’s a good keeper, but probably falls just short of the high standard required for league and Champions League contenders.

Henrique Hilario is the experienced back up option. He’s not a player you would want to rely up for too much of the season, but he’s capable of filling in for a couple of games if required. Matej Delac will spend another season out on loan after joining the Pensioners in 2010.

Chelsea are 9/2 to win the Premier League – BET NOW


Given and Aston Villa have questions to answer in the new season


Aston Villa

1st Team Goalkeepers: Shay Given (36), Brad Guzan (27), Andy Marshall (37), Benjamin Siegrist

With the arrival of Paul Lambert, it should be a period of optimism at Aston Villa, but with the new season nearly upon us, there’s a feeling of ambivalence around Villa Park. The squad that got a little too close to the relegation battle for comfort hasn’t been overhauled and although they welcome back Darren Bent from injury it’s hard to know what to expect from them.

The goalkeeping ranks sum up the uncertainty. Shay Given was one of Villa’s star performers last season, but his injury troubles and performances for Ireland at the European Championship will have set off a few alarm bells. During the season, there were few suggestions that age was catching up with the Irishman, but as the months rolled by, he became more injury-prone and it seemed to impact his performances. If he has got over the niggles and returned to full health, we can expect the agile and experienced Given we’ve seen for the better part of 20 years of Premier League football. If it’s the sign of the inevitable and irreversible decline that will strike every player, Villa could have a big problem.

Behind him, Villa’s goalkeeping options are far less experienced and proven. Brad Guzan arrived at Villa Park with a big reputation, but his career has stalled. He has made 32 appearances in four years with the Villains and although there have been signs of his ability, the American is far from an established deputy. The fact he was released by the club when his contract expired earlier this summer only to be re-signed a few weeks later hints at the slight indifference towards him. Part of the episode may have been down to contract wranglings, but it doesn’t suggest they have a massive amount of faith in the American.

Backing up Given and Guzan, Villa have goalkeepers at opposite ends of their careers. Andy Marshall is seeing out his career at the club and is an experienced name to call upon if the club suffer an injury crisis with their goalkeepers. Having joined the club’s academy in 2009, Benjamin Siegrist has been promoted to the senior squad for the new season. The young Swiss keeper was part of the team that won the Under 17 World Cup in 2009, a tournament in which he won the Golden Glove award for top goalkeeper. He’s a tall man, but his speed and mobility is impressive. If Given and Guzan stay fit, it’s likely he’ll go out on loan for at least part of the season.


Szczesny crucial for Arsenal hopes of progress



1st Team Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny (22). Lukasz Fabianksi (27), Vito Mannone (24)

After several off-seasons of worrying that a weak goalkeeping division will undermine the efforts of a talent collection of outfield players, the glove in on the other hand for Arsenal these days. With Wojciech Szczesny in goal, they’ve got one of the league’s best goalkeepers. Last season, he continued to impress and at just 22 years of age, he has the potential to develop into one of the world’s best. His growth is there for all to see. He’s now a more confident, commanding and authoritative figure in his penalty area. He has shown leadership qualities and curbed his tendency to let the red mist descend. Along with his agility and reactions, it makes him a key part of the team. Arsenal’s chances of glory will be hugely dependent on his performances.

He’s still very young and there may still be the odd mistake here and there, but his overall contribution to the team effort is hugely positive. Robin van Persie got the plaudits for his amazing campaign last season, but the Pole’s saves were crucial in making sure the Dutchman’s goals mattered and weren’t just consolation. His performance at Anfield summed up his season. Without a string of great saves in the first half, Liverpool would have been out of sight and the Gunners would have had no chance of getting anything out of the game. Instead, they hung in there, with van Persie grabbing the late winner. That was typical of a few games in which Szczensy made up for the team’s defensive shortcomings.

Not too many tears were shed when Manuel Almunia left the club earlier this summer. Although a very capable keeper when in form, he had become very unreliable and lost concentration far too often. He did have a good deal of Premier League experience however and behind Szczesny these days are the comparatively untested Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone.

Fabianski clearly has ability, but can be untidy with his handling and ideally, you wouldn’t want him in goals for long parts of the season. He’s been a Gunner since 2007 and averaged about 12 games a season over that spell. It’s not much for a 27 year old. Vito Mannone has been at the club for seven years. The Italian is still only 24 years of age, but you get the feeling this is a make or break season for him. He’s had a few loan spells, but rarely suggested he’s close to challenging Szczesny or clawing his way up the pecking order. Another loan spell is possible, but he will need to improve dramatically to be considered a Premier League standard keeper.

With van Persie gone, it could be a tough season for Arsenal. Just how tough may depend on Szczesny’s form.