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Is this the final ‘proof’ needed for Karl Darlow to be replaced by Martin Dubravka?

5 months ago
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Martin Dubravka made his Newcastle United debut on 11 February 2018.

A superb man of the match performance helping Newcastle to a 1-0 win over Man Utd.

The Slovakian keeper never looking back, going on an excellent run of 88 consecutive Premier League starts as his loan spell was turned into a permanent move.

Top work by Rafa Benitez, bringing in such a quality goalkeeper for only £4m, in an era where you see such fantastic sums paid for not such fantastic keepers (Chelsea paying £72m for Kepa, only five weeks after Martin Dubravka made his move permanent to NUFC for £68m less).

Martin Dubravka last started a Premier League game on 26 July 2020, the 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool, last match of that very long season.

Despite being back in the first team squad since the end of December 2020, Dubravka hasn’t been able to get back in the PL team, only playing in that 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Arsenal.

Martin Dubravka Premier League record:

His average goals per game conceded for Newcastle being:

2017/18: 0.91 goals per game (11 in 12)

2018/19: 1.26 goals per game (48 in 38)

2019/20: 1.53 goals per game (58 in 38)

An overall NUFC record of 117 conceded in 88 PL matches, an average of 1.33 goals per game.

What about Karl Darlow though?

Karl Darlow Premier League record:

2015/16: 1.22 goals per game (11 in 9)

2017/18: 1.50 goals per game (15 in 10)

2020/21: 1.65 goals per game (38 in 23)

An overall NUFC Premier League record of 64 conceded in 42 PL matches, an average of 1.52 goals per game.

There seems to be an ever growing number of Newcastle fans thinking that Martin Dubravka needs to come back into the team, not because Karl Darlow is a disaster, simply because Dubravka is the better keeper.

Under Rafa Benitez, Martin Dubravka and those in front of him had the seventh lowest number of goals conceded, in both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons.

Last season (2019/20) under Steve Bruce, that became the seventh worst number of goals conceded for Martin Dubravka and his defence compared to Premier League rivals.

Beyond doubt, Steve Bruce’s (VERY) limited ability as a manager / head coach is having a massively negative affect on the team’s defending…and indeed every other part of this Newcastle team. This despite Mike Ashley allowing Bruce a net spend of over £100m+, this after having made a profit on transfers during Rafa’s time at NUFC.

This season with Karl Darlow in goal, the simple fact is that only two PL clubs have conceded more goals than Newcastle United.

Darlow is still making a fair number of saves BUT he is conceding a lot of goals.

Not maybe quite on the level of say McCarthy at Southampton who has conceded 18 in his last five PL matches and let in some really soft efforts, such as that third one against Newcastle last Saturday.

However, would a better goalkeeper, such as say Martin Dubravka, really have conceded as many as Karl Darlow has this season?

John Harrison specialises in statistical analysis and has came up with this overview of the performance of Premier League goalkeepers this season:

This was a part of the online conversation that John Harrison’s analysis sparked.

Dan Pistak:

“Areola may be the main reason Fulham have a chance to stay up, he has been stellar.

“I hope that if Lloris decides to leave Tottenham (or they look for replacement), Areola is going to be on top of their list.

“Also, despite all the Darlow media praise, he is actually not doing too well.”

John Harrison:

“Yeah Darlow makes some decent saves but lets in some soft goals which get unnoticed as he’s at Newcastle.”

Dan Pistak:

“I’m surprised he’s still in between the sticks now that Dúbravka is healthy again.

“But I guess he’s one of 2 Newcastle players (together with C. Wilson) that plays acceptably well, so S. Bruce doesn’t want to bench one of the very few bright spots in his team.”

Some would say it’s unfair if Karl Darlow is now replaced but surely if Martin Dubravka is a better goalkeeper, which I believe he clearly is, then he has to come into the team sometime.

I think the bottom line is that Martin Dubravka WOULD have saved some of the goals Darlow has conceded, due to a combination of better positioning, a better shot stopper, simply a better goalkeeper.

There have been a fair few goals Newcastle have conceded, where I think Darlow had no chance…but I think Dubravka would have saved if he had been in the team.

The fact that the bottom three have totally failed to eat into the points advantage that Newcastle United and the likes of Brighton and Burnley have over them, NUFC 10 points ahead of relegation spots but Fulham with game in hand, has helped Steve Bruce and Newcastle United avoid a lot of awkward questions and decisions. With goalkeeper being one of them.

No doubt many of you will think that until / unless he makes some really obvious blunders, keep Karl Darlow in goal until the end of the season.

However, that just looks weak, Steve Bruce needs to make the change now, show his and the club’s faith in Martin Dubravka as Newcastle’s number one, or else we stand a very real chance of losing what is clearly by far, our best goalkeeper since the brilliant Shay Given was between the sticks.

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