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.