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The case of Matz Sels is a strange one

5 years ago

So many talking points about team selection this season and yet the only player to play every single Championship so far, in one who nobody has really made their mind up about so far.

Step forward Matz Sels.

The Belgian keeper has kept clean sheets in four of his eight games, with only one Championship team (Brentford – five) conceding less goals so far than the six Matz Sels has picked out of his net.

When he arrived early in the summer, signing another goalkeeper looked a puzzling one.

Karl Darlow had shown himself more than capable and really looked the part as the season ended, Tim Krul was due back early season from injury, with Rob Elliot to follow. Whilst Freddie Woodman is really making a name for himself as he progresses through the different age groups with England.

A brave decision by Rafa Benitez though, putting a foreign keeper straight into the rough and tumble of the Championship, so he clearly must rate him as he knew he had a more than capable Karl Darlow in situ.

The odd blunder in pre-season and then two opening defeats to the season, added to worries fans were expressing about Matz Sels coming for high balls.

When he signed, highlights video on YouTube showed a keeper who looked like he much preferred to punch the ball than try to catch it, not something that usually goes down too well with fans in England.

I think he is slowly getting better on crosses but I do wonder if now is the time to take him out of the firing line and give Darlow a run.

Last week against Wolves he made a couple of cracking saves but once again never looked like he was going to get close to their second goal – he could have done nothing with Mbemba’s effort! Plus he almost allowed a comedy effort in, a simple cross/shot popped back out of his midriff and bounced just the right side of the post and out for a corner without him knowing anything about it.

Difficult to judge a keeper who generally has little to do in many of the games but maybe these next two matches, if he plays, against our other pair of relegated teams will tell us a fair bit more about his progress, or lack of it.

Matz Sels talking to the Chronicle:

“The most important thing here is that your opponents will try to block you whenever you come off your line.

“In Belgium, the referees will not allow that, but here sometimes they let it go.

“It is definitely more physical, it is important to come for the high balls and everything, but it is good for me to experience that because it helps you improve and get better.

“The game is definitely a lot faster here and you have to be focused right through every game, the ball is always going up and down the pitch.

“In Belgium, if you are one of the big teams, you can dominate the whole game for 80 minutes and then in the last five minutes they might play with five strikers to try to finally test you.

“Here, the game is constantly going backwards and forwards and that is the big difference, you have to play games to get used to the level.

“You only have to look at somebody like Claudio Bravo (at Man City), he has played for Barcelona but he comes here and still finds it more physical.

“That’s definitely the main difference between England and anywhere else.

“He will adapt, but even he needs some time to get used to the way of playing – you have to change a few things.”


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