With the season fast approaching the we find ourselves in an ongoing argument over which set of players Alan Pardew should roll out as Newcastle United's starting 11. We'll start at the bottom with the keepers and work our way up the board to the strikers. Help us chalk-board this thing in the comments section, don't be afraid to wax poetic!
Past the jump, we break down the Keeper Situation.
In a summer full of contentious debates, the issue of who starts in goal is perhaps the most contentious of them all, and yet I still feel as if I'm one of the only people left backing Steve Harper. Harper is my guy for three simple reasons:
A lot of players have moved in and out of Newcastle (or are on their way out). It's up to Alan Pardew to make a choice that will be well received in the dressing room, and though we don't know who the players would prefer, the smart money is on Harper. He's been a mainstay at the club for many, many years. Pards has certainly been putting his own stamp on the team, but a show of support for a member of the old guard (sort of like his shrewd move of naming Fabricio Coloccini as captain) will go a long way toward earning the loyalty of his players. Perhaps even more important is the chemistry Harper has with the back line.
2. Secondary Skills
Goalkeepers do much more than stop shots. They are expected to direct traffic, which Harper does better than Tim Krul. (By the way, this is a two-man race in my opinion. I don't think Fraser Forster has the cache or the skill to overtake both of these men.) Goaltenders are also expected to take free kicks and distribute the ball after gaining possession. Not only does Harper display better discretion than Krul on this front, but when he does boom the ball down the field, he's more accurate and has better vision.
3. Shot Stopping
Many Krul apologists point to his acrobatic saves as proof that he is a superior shot stopper to Harper, and while that may and likely will be true at some point in the future, it is not true now. Harper is more decisive than Krul, who can still appear timid despite receiving plenty of experience last season. Harps knows when to come off of his line, while Krul often hesitates, leaving his defenders out to dry. Goalkeeper stats are certainly imperfect, but when you compare Harper to Krul, it doesn't look good for The Flying Dutchman. Harper had a better GAA (1.22 to 1.67), save percentage (67.6 to 62.8), and more clean sheets in fewer games (5 in 18 to 4 in 21). Again, I don't want to evaluate these stats in a vacuum, but the evidence points to Harper. He may not make the spectacular saves that Krul does, but he sure does take care of the sure ones.
The argument for Krul is that he has a higher ceiling than Harper (conceded) and that Harper is on the decline (also conceded). However, I don't believe that Timmy has caught him yet. Steve Harper gives Newcastle the best chance to win games now, and that's why he's my goalkeeper.
Robert, Robert, Robert, you make it sound so sinister when you use phrasing like "Krul Apologists," as though we are some freakish and outlandish cult with no grounding in reality. Look, I get it, I really do. Harper has been at Newcastle since he was a toddler, or since 1993 if you want to get technical about it. For much of that time, he sat on the bench, first behind Hislock and eventually behind Given, who is arguably the greatest keeper ever for the Magpies. He has certainly "paid his dues" as it were, and certainly has shown loyalty, dedication, and grit between the posts for nearly two decades (what!?). He is a stable, sure choice, and probably provides us the best chance to win games in the upcoming season.
Now, with all that said, Harper should sit his butt back in the pine where it belongs. Tim Krul
was 5 years old when Harper began his tenure in Tyneside, but in the 18 years since that time, he has developed into the better option for NUFC. There is zero doubt in my mind that Krul is going to be a super-duper star one day, on the level of Van der Sar and Casillas. I think it is only a matter of time before he replaces Stekelenburg as the #1 for the Dutch (who are #2 in the world, by the way), especially with a few more performance like the one against Brazil
. At 23 years old, he already displays a freakish ability to fly, an emerging confidence necessary in any keeper, and a nickname nearly as good as "The Human Octopus."
Krul has some issues. Distribution comes to mind, but that is a quick fix that will probably mend itself by the end of the year. Authority and leadership are others, but those rest squarely in the hands of Mr. Pardew. If he gives Krul the reins from the Arsenal
match onwards, and makes sure there is zero doubt that Krul is the man for the job, then the authority and control will come naturally. Much like Quarterback controversies in the American NFL, if the coach goes all-in with one guy, the issue can quickly resolve itself. This is especially if that guy pays off with some fine performances, and I have full faith and confidence that Krul will do exactly that.
One other note. Many Harper devotees point to age and experience in their rallying cries. I'd like to point out that Manchester United
just broke the bank to land 20 year old David De Gea. Joe Hart
won the Golden Glove at Man City at the ripe old age of 24. The adage used to be that goalies, like a fine wine, got better with age. That's not the case anymore, a good keeper is simply a good keeper, and Krul is a damn good keeper. Cerberus doesn't seem to care one lick about "old school stability," so that argument has to be between Pardew and the players, but the way I see it: It's a new-look Newcastle, and Krul has got
to be the man between the posts.
Well, I'm with you fellas.
In seriousness though, this was always a choice between two men, Frazer Forster will be a Premiership keeper, that's a sports promise, but it won't be this season in Newcastle.
That said I will pitch my tent in the Tim Krul camp. If anyone could prove to me that Harper's experience (side note: isn't it funny how we use this word instead of OLD), so if anyone can prove that Harper's AARP status effectually gives him more respect from the team in front of him then I will always be in the Krul camp.
Krul detractors, see what I did there, will point to several issues that amount to a "lack of experience, read age", but if Krul is the future, which he is, there is only one type of experience that he needs. If that experience comes at a cost to Steve Harper, then so be it, such is the breaks.