Szczesny crucial for Arsenal hopes of progress

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Arsenal

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.


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Euro 2012 – Much expected of Szczesny and Cech in Group A


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The demands of international goalkeeping differ to the club game, but essentially having the best possible man for the job is the aim of the game. Here’s a look at the goalkeeping options open to the teams in Group A.

Czech Republic

This version of the Czech Republic isn’t littered with world-class names the way previous teams were, but in goals they have a true superstar. Petr Cech has had his critics over the last couple of seasons but this year he came roaring back to top form. His stunning save in the FA Cup final helped his team to the first trophy of the year and a string of high quality performances in the Champions League were the difference between eventual glory and an early exit.

He’ll be crucial if the Czechs are to give their customary good showing. There are very few players on the planet who could adequately replace Cech and there will be concern if either of the back-ups, Jaroslav Drobny of Hamburg or Jan Lastuvka of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk see much playing time.

Greece
For a team so infamously committed to the defensive side of the game, Greece lack a goalkeeper of worldwide renown. Between the three they take to Euro 2012, they have little more than 50 caps worth of experience. 30 of those belong to Kostas Chalkias and he’s the likely first choice for Fernando Santos. The 38-year-old is relatively advanced in age, but it’s only in recent years that he has claimed the national team berth. His at times erratic decision-making may have something to do with that. At 6′ 6″ he’s very agile, but is prone to a moment of madness and giving away a gilt-edged chance.

He is playing regularly for PAOK and that makes him the preference over Alexandros Tzorvas. He’s spent the majority of his first season with Palermo on the bench. A shaky start saw him lose his status as first choice and ultimately his chance at getting the nod for the international side.

Michalis Sifakis is the youngest of the three heading to Euro 2012. It’s a cliché to say he’s a shot-stopper, but certainly his speed and athleticism are sometimes compromised by some rushes of blood to the head. He is capable of making some breath-taking saves however, so if he was needed, he’s more than able to cope.

Poland

The hosts’ goalkeeping division took a hit with the news Lukasz Fabianski will miss the tournament with injury. It’s an inconvenience, but Wojciech Szczesny is the man who they’ll rely upon. The scenario he faces for the national side has parallels with the situation he experiences at Arsenal. Robert Lewandowski is expected to be the goalscoring threat, but if Szczesny doesn’t perform to his world-class best, the striker’s efforts may not matter. The Poles lack quality in-depth and any progress into the latter stages of the tournament will surely require heroics from Szczesny. As he showed for the Gunners countless times this season, he’s more than capable of saving the day.

Behind him in the pecking order is the equally youthful Grzegorz Sandomierski. The 22-year-old is a highly rated understudy who was signed by Genk as the long-term replacement for Thibaut Courtois. He was soon loaned back to Jagiellonia Bialystok to build upon his experience. The oldest goalkeeper of the trio is the still spritely Prezemyslaw Tyton. At 25, he’s highly rated at his club PSV Eindhoven and may still challenge Szczesny for the starting role in the years to come.

Russia
Igor Akinfeev was flavour of the goalkeeping month after his showing at Euro 2008. The CSKA clubman was rumoured to be a target for some of Europe’s top clubs, most concretely perhaps, Manchester United who were aware of time ticking down on Edwin van der Sar’s playing days. He never really kicked on from that tournament and that tells us he possibly hasn’t developed at the speed anticipated by some. At 26 years of age, he still has plenty of time to make the next step.

His progress has been hampered more recently by injury trouble. He missed a large part of last season due to injury. Even a few days before this tournament begins, reports have emerged about fluid on his knee and the concern about his fitness is merited.

Vyacheslav Malafeev enjoyed a run as starter towards the end of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as a result of Akineev’s injury troubles. He’s also seen plenty of action in the pre-tournament friendlies. Dick Advocaat is clearly aware of the need to keep the Zenit St. Petersburg stalwart sharp and if he is called upon, he should provide good cover for Akinfeev.

Anton Shunin represents the younger generation and he may yet play a more important role than is ideal for a player with two international caps. The Dynamo Moscow stopper’s reflexes and agility will hold up to the international game, but his decision-making and inexperience will be a concern if he needs to step in over the next few weeks.

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Szczesny of Arsenal voted goalkeeper of the season

Wojciech Szczesny

Readers of ministryofglove.com have voted Arsenal goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny as the Premier League goalkeeper of the season. Szczesny (21) earned 35 per cent of the votes, David De Gea of Manchester United came second on 29 per cent with Michel Vorm of Swansea back in third on 11 per cent.

The young Pole’s natural ability has been apparent since his loan spell with Brentford in the 2009/10. When he finally made his Premier League debut for Arsenal against Manchester United at Old Trafford in December of 2010, he was a better keeper again from his time at Griffin Park, but not without his flaws. He experienced his ups and downs. In February of 2011, against Barcelona in the first leg of Champions League Last 16 at the Emirates, he pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep the Gunners in the tie and incredibly, lay the foundations for an unlikely win on the night. He received undue criticism for his role in the goal that handed Birmingham the Carling Cup later in the month, but in general, his performances suggested he still had some growing to do.

Thankfully, that growing up has happened remarkably fast. I don’t know how he spent the summer of 2011, but when he returned to the Emirates Stadium in August, he looked a bigger, more composed and authoritative figure. Previously he had the tendency to get involved when he didn’t need to – both on and off the pitch – but that feistiness has by and large been curbed and channeled into the more productive direction of leadership.

As a sign of his emerging influence at the club, it’s notable how many times he has been the one chosen for media duties, both in the build-up and after Arsenal matches. Despite only turning 22 years of age this coming Wednesday, he feels like one of Arsenal’s senior players and the role suits the more mature Szczesny perfectly. He comes across as focussed, but level-headed individual.

In this campaign he has been brilliant. Even as Arsenal stumbled their way through the early part of the season, he was excellent, making saves that eked out points for his team and stopped the club’s morale from being annihilated entirely. When Robin Van Persie clicked into gear, Arsenal’s season got up and running, but the good form of Szczesny was what ensured his goals went towards victories rather than smaller – or no – returns.

Szczesny has been brilliant this season and the underrated factor in Arsenal’s resurgence. With youth on his side, he has the time and capacity to develop further. If he gets a slice of good luck and good health, he has the potential to become an Arsenal and Premier League legend.

David De Gea was voted into second place on the poll. The Spaniard certainly has claims to the comeback of the season. His Old Trafford obituaries when being written after a poor adaptation to life in the Premier League, but since Christmas, his form has improved markedly and been crucial in forging the five point advantage United currently enjoy at the top of the table. He now cuts a more confident and comfortable figure than the forlorn young man in the glare of a critical spotlight a few months back. To draw what may in time prove to be an apt parallel, Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t overly effusive about Peter Schmeichel’s first season at Old Trafford and that worked out pretty well for all concerned. It’s premature, but with more learning to do, De Gea has shown he has the potential to have a long and successful career at the Theatre of Dreams.

Brendan Rodgers purchase of Michel Vorm was arguably the best bit of business conducted in the Premier League this season. He made his debut in the Swans 4-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City, but the Dutchman came away from the game with immense credit. The stats say he made 11 saves that night and it’s hard to overstate how important those saves where. Had he made only five or six of those saves and Swansea went on to lose 8-0 or 9-0, immediately the squad would have doubted their ability to compete in the Premier League and almost certainly would not have enjoyed the season of free-flowing football they did. He came up big at crucial times several times during the campaign and Rodgers next managerial trick will be keeping him away from the grasp of clubs with more financial clout than the Swans.

The results in full

Szczesny (Arsenal) – 35.38%
De Gea (Man Utd) – 28.72%
Vorm (Swansea) – 10.77%
Krul (Newcastle) – 8.46%
Friedel (Tottenham) – 7.44%
Hart (Man City) – 5.38%
Al Habsi (Wigan) – 2.82%
Ruddy (Norwich) – 1.03%

Premier League: Arsenal goalkeeper leads an impressive generation

Szczesny

Potential is always the great imponderable.
It’s easy to identify, difficult to quantify and never guaranteed to be fulfilled.
It’s capable of vanishing in front of your eyes quicker than clubs that actually want to sign Carlos Tevez. If anything, it’s even harder to examine when looking at goalkeepers who may have to wait months and years for their chance in the 1st team, but one of the main storylines of the Premier League season has been the number of young goalkeepers making huge strides towards delivering on their undoubted natural ability. Here’s a look at some of the youthful generation impressing in the early stages of the campaign.

The irony of Arsenal finally unearthing a world-class goalie only for the rest of the team to suffer high-profile difficulties is something that’s been pointed out by various people – some with more joy than others. Since being promoted to the starting role in the Arsenal team, Wojciech Szczesny has performed to a level that suggests he’s a player of real quality. He has earned some flack for a couple of errors, but thankfully he has shown the mental strength to bounce back and more than that, improve markedly. Over the summer, he seems to have not only matured, but improved his already impressive agility, handling and command of his penalty area. His team-mates haven’t helped much by way of keeping his sheets clean, but taken in isolation, he has been in excellent form and looks to be the long-term solution to the Gunners’ goalkeeping issues. There will be blips in the future, but he’s displayed the mentality to suggest he’ll be able to great through any future issues.

Almost a carbon copy of the Pole is Tim Krul of Newcastle United. I questioned Alan Pardew’s apparent willingness to let Fraser Forster leave for Celtic, but at the moment the decision to entrust the Dutchman as first choice looks inspired. He has showcased his fantastic reflexes and agility numerous times this season, but the most encouraging aspect of his performances is his ever improving calmness. Krul had a tendency to litter his performances with ill-advised decision-making that undermined his skill, but during the off-season – whether consciously or otherwise – he seems to have developed a better sense of when to take command and when to leave it to his defenders. He has been excellent and without him we may again be talking about another Newcastle side playing nice football, but with little to show for it apart from an array of frozen beer-bellies on the terraces of St. James’ Park.

David De Gea is an obvious choice. The knives were out for the young Spaniard after a shaky start to his Man United career, but he has shown great resilience under pressure to recover. At one point the temptation of going with the in-form Anders Lindegaard must have been hard to resist for Sir Alex, but De Gea’s performance at Anfield was one that highlighted the attributes that eventually persuaded Fergie to part with a substantial sum of money for his services. The excellent saves garnered many of the non-racism row headlines, but the best part was seeing the authority with week he commanded his penalty area and took charge when required. That’s an important step in his development at Old Trafford and talk of ‘turning a corner’ may still be pre-mature, but it’s certainly not without justification.

John Ruddy of Norwich is another goalkeeper I’m more than happy to eat a large slice of humble pie over. In my pre-season preview of the goalkeepers of each Premier League club I expressed doubts about his level of experience and his reliability, but aside from the dismissal at Stamford Bridge, he has looked every bit the Premier League standard goalkeeper. Mistakes blighted him last season, but the early evidence is he’s now a more focussed player and the Canaries are reaping the benefits. Wayne Hennessy is also worthy of a mention, but in his case his improvement has been over the last couple of seasons rather than over the summer and on a similar theme, Asmir Begovic has continued his longer term renaissance for Stoke.

There’s certain to be be mistakes and bumps in the road to the top for all of the Premier League’s young goalkeepers, but the indications are there’s a generation of talent emerging in the top flight at present.

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)

2011/12 Premier League Goalkeeper Preview: Arsenal

Arsenal
Szczesny

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Almunia, Vito Mannone

Overview: I’ve developed a simple rule of thumb for assessing the accuracy of rumours linking goalkeepers to Arsenal – ignore them all. There’s constant speculation about goalkeepers heading to Arsenal, but quite simply, I’m convinced Arsene Wenger doesn’t think he needs one. Given the Frenchmen’s believe in coaching, he seems committed to developing the custodians at his disposal rather than buying in something approaching the ready-made fix. I can kind of see the logic to that. Wojciech Szczesny is hugely promising. His reflexes are excellent, his hands are good, his agility top class and his confidence supreme. He could be Arsenal’s goalkeeper for the next decade and he has the ability to make that claim only slightly hyperbolic. But having said all that, he’s an incredibly young man to shoulder the goalkeeping responsibilities of a team genuinely hoping to be title contenders. Considering Arsenal’s on-going struggles in the goalkeeping department for the last few seasons, the Emirates is not an environment in which an up and coming keeper can learn his trade. In a couple of seasons, the young Pole may be one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but right now he isn’t and he will have several blips. His temperament is also something to be wary of. Sometimes his undoubted confidence spills over into some ill-advised decisions both on and off the pitch. He had a minor twitter rant about referees giving Man Utd favourable decisions last January and on couple of occasions got involved in on-pitch skirmishes he could easily have avoided in a style not dissimilar to Jens Lehmann.

Regardless of this, he’s likely to start the season as first choice, but there will be unease about having Lukasz Fabianski as second choice. The elder Pole has made progress in the last couple of years, but there are ongoing concerns about his decision-making and nagging doubts that he’s never going to belong to the world’s elite. To me, it’s also telling that Manuel Almunia is still hanging around. There has been talk of him leaving since January and it’s come to nothing. My suspicion is that secretly, Wenger would like to keep him around. He’s perfectly capable of performing to a high level (as we saw with his incredible display in the Camp Nou when he came on for Szczesny), but over a stretch of games you’re more than likely to see some nonsensical decisions that cost goals. He offers a level of experience that others can’t match and for that reason alone, I think he might stay at the Emirates. Vito Mannone had a season on loan with Hull, but suffered a series of injuries and didn’t get the full benefit of the experience. He’s likely to go out on loan again.

Worst case scenario: The injury troubles that afflicted Szczesny and Fabianski throughout last season mean that Wenger has to turn to Almunia for long parts of the season. Once again, the manager turns down the chance to sign a goalkeeper during the January transfer window and Arsenal must make do with semi-fit and low on confidence keepers for the closing months of the season.

Most likely outcome: Szczesney will perform very well, but occasionally make the type of mistake to draw criticism. From time to time Wenger will give Fabianski a chance, but again it may not be long before it becomes obvious he isn’t a viable first choice for as sustained period of time. Almunia makes a handful of appearances, but again makes errors.

The Best Young Premier League Goalkeepers 2010-11

MOG Premier League Awards
It’s awards season and in the absence of any goalkeepers actually making the PFA Player of the Year or Young Player of the Year shortlists, here’s a look at the best performing goalkeepers of the season. It’s not exactly a list of the most talented goalkeepers, but rather the ones who have consistently performed to the best of their abilities. I haven’t ranked them, but here’s my shortlist of young goalkeepers.

Asmir Begovic
After a worrying start to the season, Begovic has turned things around at Stoke

Asmir Begovic
Usurping such an established Premier League performer as Thomas Sorensen should tell you all you need to know about how good a season it has been for Begovic. Having initially got his chance due to injury to the Dane towards the end of last season, he got the nod as the team’s first choice for the new season and he hasn’t disappointed. What makes his progress this season particularly remarkable is the inauspicious way in which the season began after a controversial absence from a League Cup tie in August. At that point, Tony Pulis suggested an early exit from the Britannia Stadium only six months after joining the club wasn’t out of the question, but the bridges have been rebuilt and the Bosnia and Herzegovina international has become a firm favourite thanks to a string of good performances. He’s tremendously agile and commands his penalty area with the confidence of a Premier League veteran. It wasn’t looking likely last August, but Begovic has the potential to be a reliable performer for the Potters for many years to come.

Wayne Hennessy
The story of Wayne Hennessy’s season sadly mirrors that of his club a little too closely. Wolves have played good football, performed well throughout, but just not got the results they would have hoped. That’s a general assessment of how Hennessy has got on too. In numerous games during the season he has made several good saves only to be beaten by that crucial goal that turns a win into a draw or a point into nothing. To say he has been perfect would be disingenuous, but he has been very good and responded well after moments that he won’t be overly fond of recollecting. Last weekend was a case in point because after getting beaten to a cross by Jermaine Beckford, he pulled off a couple of excellent saves to keep Wolves in the game. Not for the first time this season, it was in vain, but all the scrapping around hasn’t been for nothing and until last weekend at least, Mick McCarthy’s men had one of the better goal differences of the teams locked in the relegation battle. It’s still not looking too bad and Wolves are going to need Hennessy’s smart reflexes and agility in the closing games of the season. If he can keep a couple of clean sheets and Wolves can capitalise with a couple of goals at the other end, safety is a possibility. Hennessy is certainly good enough to hold up his end of the bargain.

Simon Mignolet
Missing a goalkeeper of Craig Gordon’s quality would normally deal a crippling blow to a team’s chances of having a good season, but such has been the ease with which the Belgian has stepped into the breach, it’s barely been noticed. A string of fine performances from Mignolet helped the Black Cats to a lofty position in the table and although that position has taken a serious dip in recent weeks, one more win should see Steve Bruce’s men safe and surely most fans would he happy with that considering the solid foundations that have been laid this season. This season also saw him make his competitive debut for Belgium. At the age of 22, he’s could already be amongst the Premier League’s best, but the best thing is he is open to serious improvement. He has the natural talent – as seen from his fine reflexes and agility – and under the guidance of Sunderland goalkeeping coach, Nigel Spink, he should become even better. He could do with being a little more assured in his handling and hang on to the ball at the first attempt more often, but Mignolet looks to be on course for the very top.

Honourable mentions
Wojciech Szczesny – did very well when thrown into the deep end for Arsenal, but a mistake in the Carling Cup Final followed soon after by a virtually season-ending injury has seen it finish on something of sour note. Tim Krul was more than capable in replacing Steve Harper for Newcastle and has the talent to be unhappy with sitting on a Premier League bench. It’s hard not to mention Joe Hart for Man City who pulled off some truly breath-taking saves in the course of the season. He started the term well, but a string of mistakes have brought some serious question marks. He has the ability, but his attitude and concentration have undermined him.