Newcastle United escaped relegation by the skin of her teeth in the 2014-15 edition of the Premier League. Alan Pardew headed for the greener pastures of London and his old stamping grounds at Crystal Palace. While he was "glad all over," it was not so glad with his former club under John Carver. This all ultimately led to the introduction of Steve McClaren as Newcastle boss and a fresh start for the players under contract to Newcastle. We will be taking a look at those players, the new introductions and who might be on the way out in our latest installment of the Pre-season Positional Previews.
We start at the back with the four contracted Senior goalkeepers.
Krul has been Newcastle's undisputed #1 since winning the job in competition against Fraser Forster during the club's last visit to the United States. Sadly, it seems as though his overall production level has been on the decline ever since. On his day, he is still one of the best (as evidenced by his single-handed earning of 3 points against Tottenham Hotspur in the 2013-14 season. Andy Woodman's somewhat sudden (if anticipated) departure will give us hope that perhaps he can find that form once again. Whoever comes in for McClaren will have something of a mess in Krul to figure out. His distribution out of hand (punts, throws) has been largely terrible and getting worse. New tactics, however, will help this out to a degree as the emphasis will be on playing the ball on the ground out of the back instead of running the greater than 50% chance that a punt downfield will result in a turnover and subsequent counterattack. It would be of further benefit if the new Goalkeeping coach could work with Tim with regard to being more proactive on free kicks and corners, more's the better.
League Appearances: 30
Goals against average: 1.57
Clean Sheets: 8
Saves per goal: 1.77
Reinforcements in front of Krul can only help - to be honest even though Krul has struggled, the Sieve Method of Premier League Defending doesn't do him any favors, either.
If we can take anything regarding the goalkeepers from Newcastle's preseason matches in preparation for the 2015-16 season, it would seem to be that McClaren favors Karl Darlow over Rob Elliot for the backup 'keeping position. Darlow, of course, spent last season on loan with Nottingham Forest in The Championship. He came away from last season (fairly or unfairly) as being a fellow who was perhaps more concerned with his appearance than with ... well, goalkeeping. This may be down to certain sections of a fan base taking a shot at a departing player after a not tremendous season by their club, or may be a thing. Time will tell. What is pretty clear, as we mentioned, is that McClaren views him as his #2. This is important in that Tim Krul has not started every match in a Premier League season since the 2011-12 season (his first as the #1). A look at his Nottingham Forest numbers:
League appearances: 42
Goals Against Average: 1.48
Clean Sheets: 12
Darlow was an extremely highly rated prospect when Newcastle completed the transfer and loan deal that saw he and Jamaal Lascelles spend another year with Nottingham Forest. In two years as the starting goalkeeper at Forest, he averaged 12 clean sheets per year. In preseason, he looked the part of a great shot stopper if he was as hesitant – or even more so – as Tim Krul on crosses and free kicks and he was punished swiftly for it. With the back line existing as it does and providing the "defense" of set pieces that it does (still ruling Chancel Mbemba out as a starting concern as of this writing), Darlow could be a disaster waiting to happen if he is called upon early in the season before the new goalkeeping coach can work him into shape.
Rob Elliot was by the numbers the best of Newcastle's three goalkeepers who saw time last year. Posting numbers better than those of departed Jak Alnwick was not a difficult concern while the 3 match sample size which was Elliot's contribution prior to coming off injured at halftime versus Chelsea didn't give him a chance to catch up with Tim Krul in terms of goals conceded and such. If McClaren's preseason selections are a reliable indicator, Elliot will be the third goalkeeper, holding down the seat vacated by the season-long loan of Freddie Woodman to Crawley Town. Rob's 2014-15 numbers:
League Appearances: 3
Goals Against Average: 1.2
Clean Sheets: 0
Saves per goal: 1.67
Unless the thinking behind this preseason's selections was purely to familiarize McClaren with the goalkeepers with which he was less familiar, it seems unlikely that Rob Elliot will even get cup duty in what will likely be his last season with the club.