Well we are less than a week from the first game in Newcastle United’s glorious return to Premiership, so it is only right that our site provides you with the best season preview you can find. Over the course of the week members of our staff will break down each position on the pitch and give you the low down on what we think of that position area before the season starts. It’s going to be a fun time, and of course as always fan feedback is encouraged. Let’s “kick” (lol I am so funny) it off with the Keepers.
Newcastle has an interesting predicament at the Keeper position. Tim Krul has been sent to train with the U-23’s and is on his way out. He should be sold soon (hopefully), and his wage coming off the books in addition to whatever amount we sell him for should help us out when finishing out the transfer window. Krul, unlike Haidara, Lazaar and Riviere has not turned down any contracts because he does not want to make less money, he simply has not been a target of seemingly any clubs. After a pretty poor showing in the Dutch league last season, it is pretty evident that Tim Krul is not the same Tim Krul from the 2014 FIFA World Cup. While Tim waits to be sold, Rafa has had to make a decision about who Newcastle’s starting Keeper will be going into the season after a successful showing in the Championship from Karl Darlow, an awe inspiring performance at the U-20 World Cup from Freddie Woodman, and the Premier League experience of Rob Elliot all while publicly stating on multiple occasions that Newcastle are looking for a first team Keeper. While Rafa has been linked with making a move for Darren Randolph, Willy Caballero, Pepe Reina and most recently Adrian; he currently has 3 Keepers on the books and very well might have only these 3 keepers at the end of August.
This preseason has given fans a lot of reason to discuss who could be starting where this Sunday, except for one area: Goalkeeper. It is more than obvious that Elliot is your day 1 starter, as he has started all but one of the preseason games and has played over 45 minutes in all of them he has played in. The only game he did not start or play in was in a 2-1 loss to Mainz due to illness.
Ability wise there is not much separating Elliot and Darlow. Both, are at the level of “this guy could start for my team, but not for the whole season”. In other words they are both back up keepers at the PL level. Before you scream at your computer screen that Darlow is the future and he needs to start every PL game, realize that Darlow could become a competent, starting PL Goalkeeper, he just is not right now. Take a moment to reflect on when we were last in the PL, there was nobody begging Rafa or Steve McLaren to put Darlow in goal. It has only been a year, and Darlow has played against worse strikers, seen worse set pieces, and has played with one of the best defences in his league. That simply won’t be the case this year and that is why Rafa has chosen to go with experience over youth. Darlow has 9 EPL appearances, all during the relegation year. Rob Elliot however has 27 appearance over 3 seasons, is a bit older, and typically doesn’t make the same mistakes Darlow has in the past.
Elliot as your starting keeper does not sound great, especially since most fans know Elliot as the back up to Tim Krul. The season where Elliot got the majority of his PL appearances was consequently the season where Tim Krul had a knee injury that left him out of the majority of the season. In Rafa’s dream world, Elliot plays against Tottenham and that’s it because by the time we play Huddersfield he would have singed a new Keeper. Heck, honestly in Rafa’s dream world Elliot is not starting and we already have a Keeper who has been through nearly all of preseason training. Elliot is meant to be a short term starter, and that is definitely the best thing going forward for Newcastle. If Rafa does not sign someone during the window, expect him to resort to looking for free agents or stick out until January. until then, Rob Elliot is your Starting Keeper.
Darlow is an interesting case. He was 100% our main man in the Championship after “he who must not be named” was sent to the bench to eat danish pastries. Darlow performed well, made spectacular saves, and had 13 clean sheets last season. That being said, he did this against players who are not exactly Premier League quality and he made a few egregious errors that many fans will point out to you if you just ask. His lack of experience is the big thing holding him back from that coveted PL starting spot that he wants with Newcastle.
Fans would be quick to point out his success last season in the Championship, but you must remember that there is a difference between a strike from an Anthony Knockaert, Chris Wood or Darren Bent versus a strike from the likes of Lukaku,
Coutinho , Morata, and Vardy. Pair that with better set piece takers, corner routines, and a defence facing much tougher attackers than they did all season; Darlow would be facing a huge shift that would have to result in an astronomical leap in his ability. This is not impossible, but it is simply more likely that Elliot will be a reliable keeper in goal for this (hopefully) temporary slew of starts. Rafa will surely want to pick up as many points as possible in a relatively easy first 5 games for the Magpies, and going with the proven veteran is always going to win out in this situation no matter how much of a stud Karl Darlow is. If Newcastle haven’t signed any Keeper at the end of this window, than this could be a different story.
Freddie Woodman would not the first name to come to mind last season if you asked fans who they thought would be a future star at the club. All of that changed this summer when England won the U-20 World Cup, and their best player was Freddie Woodman. His Gold Glove winning performance in the club made him the talk of the Toon, the UK and frankly the world. Everyone began to write about this future star, and many fans wanted Rafa to stop chasing Pepe Reina and just give the lad games.
There is no doubt that Rafa thinks Woodman could be a star, which is exactly why Rafa wants to loan him out. Realistically the PL has not been the league for young Goalkeepers to break out and shine because it is a position where you cannot afford to make mistakes on such a big stage. young strikers, Centrebacks, and Midfielders can make a few mistakes a game and learn. Goalkeepers simply have no room for error. An error easily can lead to your team being down a goal. Players like Gianluigi Donnarumma had the benefit of being in a league not as deep as the PL where they can make mistakes that won’t cost them the game. If we threw Woodman in goal against even the likes of Llorente’s Swansea, a couple of mistakes from a young keeper would have us down in an otherwise winnable game. The last team in the PL who let a young keeper develop endured a pretty tough season, but they did get a world class keeper out of it. So, that’s cool I guess.
Given Rafa’s obvious want for an experienced Keeper in goal it should come as no surprise to you that we see Woodman as our 3rd string Keeper for the time being. If Rafa can buy a keeper before the window ends Woodman will surely be loaned out at least one more season. He already has had offers flood in for him, and am sure any lower league side would want England’s future first team Keeper.
For now it looks as if Elliot is our number 1 keeper, with the hopes that Rafa brings someone in. Newcastle have already missed out nearly 5 keepers this window in all different price ranges. Hopefully a deal gets done, but if not we could see two young guys battle it out for Keeper supremacy.
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