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Goalkeeping duo of Stekelenburg and Robles enter the season with a lot to prove

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Neither one is the clear first choice

FC Everton v Real Betis - Dynamo Dresden Cup 2016 Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images

As a whole, Everton’s defense was a mess last season. The goalkeeping position was a part of the problem. So far this summer, the Blues have done little to bolster the position and, if things stay the same, it may prove to be one of their weaker points entering the Premier League season, which they kick off on August 13 at Goodison Park against Tottenham.

Key Departure

Tim Howard - transferred to the Colorado Rapids in MLS

Over his last year or two with Everton, Howard’s form had dipped. It was disappointing to see, especially since his decline began almost immediately after his stellar World Cup in the summer of 2014. At 37 years old, the club legend’s time had come and gone. Although supporters will likely remember him fondly, they were ready to see someone else between the sticks full time and rightfully so.

However, while the Toffees have replaced him with the addition of Stekelenburg, they have not necessarily improved at the position. In fact, you can argue they have regressed.

Key Arrival

Maarten Stekelenburg - transferred in from Fulham

The 33-year-old Stekelenburg spent the first nine years of his career with Ajax, making 282 appearances for the Dutch giants. Since then, he has bounced around to four different teams in five years: Roma, Fulham, Monaco and Southampton.

This season will be his third time linking up with new Everton boss Ronald Koeman. The manager also brought in Stekelenburg when he was in charge at Ajax and again last season at Southampton.

It’s pretty clear that Stekelenburg is not the long term solution to Everton’s goalkeeping problem. It has been a number of years since he was an obvious first choice netminder and shouldn’t be regarded as one heading into this season. He is the embodiment of an insurance policy. Koeman knows what he can do and wanted him on the team in case he didn’t like what he saw from Robles or if Everton were unable to sign another option.

Returning Players

Joel Robles - 24 appearances in 2015-16 across all competitions

It’s tough to be one of the “leftovers”. Robles is a player that was well-regarded by former manager Roberto Martinez. He was one of the guys Martinez brought with him to Everton from Wigan three years ago.

Over his first two years with Everton, Robles only saw action in 18 total games, with half of them coming in less important Cup games. The second half of last season was finally Robles’s time to shine when the starter, Howard, suffered through a spell of injury and poor play.

The Spaniard was decidedly mediocre during this time. He showed decent shot-stopping abilities, good reactions and there were days where he was the best player in an Everton shirt. But he has trouble on corner kicks and crosses in general. Many times he is indecisive, getting stuck in no man’s land. And he has a tendency to put goal kicks and even throws out of bounds, which is really an inexcusable thing to do.

Transfer targets

There has been no shortage of transfer rumors swirling around Everton this summer. However, few of those stories recently have centered around top quality goalkeepers.

Yesterday, the Toffees were linked to Wojciech Szczesny despite the widely expected move for him to go on loan to Roma is all but done. A few weeks ago they were said to be looking at Euro hero Rui Patricio, Leicester number one Kasper Schmeichel and new Crystal Palace man Steve Mandanda. All have fallen apart or been debunked.

And then there have been murmurs that Koeman would like to bring in his former number one at Southampton, Fraser Forster, or Manchester City’s Joe Hart. And many supporters would like to see Jack Butland in a blue shirt. Of course, Everton could possibly get any of those men, but it would come down to how much they are willing to spend on a keeper, because none of them will be cheap.

Summary

Neither of Everton’s two current options protecting the goal inspire much confidence. They are steady albeit unremarkable goalkeepers. However, the fact they do have two competent options means that goalkeeper may not be a priority at this moment, especially with the possible exits of striker Romelu Lukaku and center back John Stones looming. There is more important business to conduct.

As for who starts on the season’s opening weekend, it would appear to be a coin flip at this moment. In fact, Koeman may even alternate between the two until one shows to be a markedly better choice.