With the biting winds of winter beginning to set in and families up and down the land beginning preparations for the festive shenanigans that this time of year brings, so too does it bring the football calendar’s half-way mark. By now we are starting to get a decent idea of what make each team tick, where their weaknesses are and who their standout performers are. Collectively, the Toon Army would probably single out your Dwight Gayle’s, Matt Ritchie’s and Jonjo Shelvey’s as being the biggest contributors to our success so far – but defensive players often get overlooked. Today we take a good look at the Championship’s goalkeeping roster and work out just how good – or indeed how bad our very own Karl Darlow and Matz Sels fare when compared to the best of the rest.
Due to the inevitable injuries and suspensions that the grueling Championship schedule inflicts on teams dreaming of promotions and fairy-tale Cup runs, some sides have regularly featured their back up goalkeepers. As a result, despite this being a 24-team league, this comparison will feature a blog record breaking 29 individuals vying for a position at the pinnacle of the conclusion to Shamrock’s Scrutiny Study.
Now for the rules: The 29 players will be pitted against each other in 9 fields relevant to the position they play. The stats are based on their average 90 minutes played thus far. The top 10 in each field will be awarded points (10 for first, 9 for second and so on). The total scores will be calculated at the end and then each player will be have their chance to run to their employers clenching this report in their hand whilst waving it aloft triumphantly demanding a pay rise……or they’ll stand on the spot dismayed beyond belief waiting for the ground to swallow them up even more than David Seaman did that time when Ronaldinho caught him off guard from about 670 yards…Lets get started then.
Joint 9th is taken by Cardiff’s stopper Ben Amos and Huddersfield’s Danny Ward (0.67). Joint 7th is Preston’s Lindegaard and Burton’s McLaughlin (0.71). 0.72 earns Norwich’s McGovern 6th spot, whilst 5th place is awarded to Birmingham’s Kuszczak. Brighton’s Stockdale is in 4th with 0.79. The podium positions go to Villa’s Pierluigi Gollini (0.97), Reading’s Al-Habsi (1.0) and the Toon’s very own Karl Darlow (1.22).
1 point for Ipswich man Bialkowski (2.82), 2 points for Canary Jon Ruddy (2.86). 2.88 earns joint 4 points each for Al-Habsi and Kuszczak. 3 catches per 90 see’s Stockdale take 5 points. Derby’s Scott Carson (3.18) earns 6 points, Brentford’s very own Bentley takes 7 points (3.29) and Stojkovic of Nott’s Forest earns 8 points with 3.54. That leaves a top two of 3.72 and an impressive 4.15 claimed by Rotherham’s Lee Camp and Barnsley’s Adam Davies respectively.
Pass Completion (by foot):
54% and joint 9th for Bristol’s O’Donnell and Derby’s Carson. Wigan’s Bogdan takes 8th with 55% and 7th spot goes to Norwich’s McGovern with 56%. Huddersfield’s Ward is next up on 60% whilst joint 4th (61%) is shared by Fulham’s Button and Brighton’s Stockdale. Karl Darlow (62%), Matz Sels (66%) and Al-Habsi (a mighty 78%) complete the top three.
Darlow is getting into his stride now with a second first placed finish on 0.89. O’Donnell (0.75) and Lindegard (0.71) complete the triumphant triumvirate. QPR’S Alex Smithies claims 4th on 0.67 and then there is a drop off with Jon Ruddy trailing on 0.57. Joint 6th on 0.54 is taken by Davies and Stojkovic. Scott Carson is in 8th (0.53) leaving the Burton’s McLaughlin (0.50) and Brentford’s Daniel Bentley (0.41) to claim the final points.
First is 0.57 and 10th is 0.29. Order as follows: 1 – Stockdale (Brighton), 2 – Carson (Derby), =3 – Sels & Darlow (Toon 0.44), =5 – Bentley (Rotherham) & Bialkowski (Ipswich), 7 – Davies (Barnsley), 8 – Westwood (Sheff Wed), 9 – Fielding (Bristol City), =10 – Lindegaard (Preston) & Green (Leeds).
Fatal Errors (Mistakes directly leading to a goal. For this the worst offenders lose points):
-1 point for Stockdale (0.07), -2 points for Stojkovic (0.08), -3 for Ward (0.11), -6 (0.12) for O’Donnell, Kuszczak & Green), -7 points for Davies of Barnsley (0.15), -8 for McGovern (0.16) and Wolves’ Lonergan takes -9 points (0.29). Cardiff’s Ben Wilson hang your head in shame! Shame! Shame! (0.33 and -10 points).
Burton’s McLaughlin takes top spot with 0.21. Second for Forest’s Stojkovic on 0.15. Top three completed by Brighton’s Stockdale on 0.14. 4th place for Al-Habsi (0.12), leaving McGovern in 5th on 0.08. Sixth is awarded to both Westwood of Sheffield Wednesday and Button (0.07). 4 players get in on the 3 points action that 8th place brings (0.06). They are: Bentley, Smithies, Bialkowski & Rob Green.
Distribution (Including throws and goal kicks):
Darlow just makes the Top 10 with 56%. Two players (57%) share 8th: Stockdale & Kuszczak. A further two players in Huddersfield’s Ward & Barnsley’s Davies share sixth spot with 59%. 62% earns three players 8 points each. Well done to Wigan’s Bogdan, Norwich’s McGovern & Newcastle’s Sels. Second spot goes to Fulham’s David Button (64%), but top dog here is Reading keeper Al-Habsi on 79%.
Preston’s Chris Maxwell (2.33) gets a point. Two points (2.38) for Villa’s Gollini and three points for Wolves’ Lonergan (2.4). Four points now for Bristol’s Fielding and five points awarded to Bentley (2.72). Six points earnt by Sels (2.83) and a 7-pointer for Scott Carson (3.17). Third place for the consistent Al-Habsi (3.58) and second spot for Stockdale (3.56). Bossing it up top is Birmingham’s Kuszczak on 4.13.
The Hall of Shame! Shame! Shame!
1) Ben Wilson (Cardiff). -10 Points.
2) Andy Lonergan (Wolves). -5 Points.
3) Rob Green (Leeds Utd). -2 Points.
4) Jason Steele (Blackburn). 0 Points.
The Championship Top Dogs:
1) Ali Al-Habsi (Reading). 48 Points.
2) Robbie Stockdale (Brighton). 47 Points.
3) Karl Darlow (Newcastle Utd). 37 Points.
4) Matz Sels (Newcastle Utd). 31 Points.
5) Scott Carson (Derby County). 26 Points.
6) Daniel Bentley (Brentford). 22 Points.
7) David Button (Fulham). 21 Points.
8) Vladimir Stojković (Notts Forest). 20 Points.
=9) Tamas Kuszczak (Birmingham City). 17 Points.
=9) Adam Davies (Barnsley). 17 Points.
It’s reassuring to see that both of Newcastle’s available senior goalkeepers feature in the League’s Top 4. It’s clear that Sels has been struggling with the high balls. His punching was suspect from day 1, however he is strong at shot stopping and distribution. Darlow again is pretty steady across the board and is strong with his command of the 6-yard box. All in all though, there is not a lot to chose between the two. Where Darlow has extensive Championship experience, Sels in new to the Country and maybe he just needs time to adapt. My gut feeling is that he will not prosper in a Toon shirt though. Both Al-Habsi and Stockdale perform well in almost all areas and one could argue they are Premier League class. Our two keepers have time on their side, but will they be at that level by the end of the season, ready for the challenge of the Premiership come August 2017? Or will Tim Krul or Rob Elliott reclaim the Number 1 shirt and leave our Championship stalwarts sitting in the shadows? Personally I’d trade them all in for a new Shay Given!