School Of Science: Goalkeepers

Greg Fiume

It is hard to overstate just how important the goalkeeping position is in soccer. In The Numbers Game research found that teams that scored at least one goal earned 1.2 points per game while a team that conceded 0 goals earned 2.5 points a game on average. It is a simple stat that makes the old adage about defense winning championships ring true. There has been some concern at Everton for the past several season over goalkeeping depth, but that problem appears to be fixed and hopefully the position will return to be one of Everton's biggest strengths.

Tim Howard

Howard is entering his 8th season as the starting keeper at Everton and while he may have had a dip in form, he still shows the athletic ability that has made him a fan favorite during his time with Everton. With Howard everyone knows there is a good possibility there will be a silly mistake or two during the season, but he makes up for it with some truly athletic saves that most keepers would not be able to make.

On the international front Howard is still the number one for the USA despite some calls to give Aston Villa's Brad Guzan the job on a more permanent basis. Experience counts for a great amount in international play, and Jurgen Klinsmann is unlikely to make a change in goal during the lead up to World Cup 2014.

Howard is probably the best pure shot stopper in the Premier League. He doesn't always have the greatest angle, something only the most experienced keepers do well at, but his huge frame and reflexes allow him to get to all but the greatest of shots.

His weak spot is crosses and free kicks, as it is for so many keepers in the Premier League. All but 1 or 2 of his mistakes came from failing to claim a cross or staying on his line when he should have left it. The only way to fix this is to continue to work on crosses, and Martinez's new goalie coach is sure to address it as the season continues.

Joel Robles

Robles may be the most interesting signing for Martinez this season. In a way this is a classic Everton signing of bringing in a veterans eventual replacement to get some experience at the club before handing over the reins. Robles is 23 and spent the second half of last year under Roberto Martinez at Wigan. This time around Martinez was able to secure the Spaniards services on a permanent transfer, and he is now considered the keeper of the future for Everton.

There is a lot of talk around Robles because of his fantastic performance at Wigan. He managed to unseat Wigan starter Ali Al-Habsi and started for the club in their FA Cup final victory, playing a truly stellar game. That said, it is best to temper expectations for now. Robles only has 51 appearances since 2009, and over half of these appearances were for Atletico Madrid's B team. He is still very inexperienced, but the ability is certainly there. Hopefully Howard can play out his current contract for the next couple of seasons to give Robles time to learn, and then he can take over when Howard decides to move on.

Mason Springthorpe

Springthorpe would appear to be the odd-man out in the race to succeed Howard, but as Evertonians know it never hurts to have multiple young keepers who are well rated. Springthorpe arrived from Shrewsbury Town in 2011 at the age of 16. He will turn 20 next year, and is under contract through the end of this season.

Though he hasn't made his Premier League debut, he was named to the bench for several games after Tim Howard injured his back during the previous campaign. Scouts inside and out of Everton are high on the youngster, and in a perfect world he will develop into a challenger to Joel Robles to replace Howard assuming Springthorpe stays with the club past this season.

What To Expect

Despite grumblings from Evertonians, the goalkeeper position is relatively simple for now, Tim Howard is the starting keeper. Even with his slight dip in form, Howard is still arguably one of the 5 best keepers in the Premier League. The arrival of Robles should help him return to the fantastic form we all remember from past seasons, it was no secret that Jan Mucha couldn't perform in the EPL so Howard had no one legitimately pushing him for the starting spot.

For Robles, I would expect him to play in the League Cup matches, and depending on Martinez's confidence and style he could also feature in the FA Cup matches. While fans might be quick to complain, Howard is definitely getting older and sparing him a deep cup run in the FA Cup would not be the worst thing in the world. Robles has the ability in big games so he shouldn't be overwhelmed by the occasion.

It is fair to say that if we see Springthorpe in a match this season something may have gone terribly wrong at the goalkeeping position, though it would be nice gesture to see him make his Premier League debut. He is likely to spend time in goal for the U21 side, especially if Robles is left out when reserve matches conflict with EPL matches.

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