Arsenal’s Next #1

With Petr Cech now at 35 and generally only featuring in the league, Arsenal could soon be in the market for a new number one goalkeeper. Yes, we have David Ospina but his displays over the last few seasons have been far from convincing, going from outstanding to the completely inept within minutes. High crosses are not his forte and standing at only 6 foot, his stature isn’t exactly daunting for a top level goalkeeper. Petr Cech has set the bar throughout his tenure, at Arsenal and during his time at Chelsea, and having looked at the calibre of other goalies in the top six clubs it is clear that our next stopper needs to have Premier League experience in order to keep our club at the same level, or better. We are not in a position now to be nurturing the next big thing, as the club needs a vocal leader but one who is young enough to establish and maintain a long-term relationship with the defensive unit.

With the exclusion of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal who are all the wrong side of 30, our defensive group consists of young-to-mid twenty-somethings who have a bright future provided they are well guided. With Bellerin, Mustafi and Bielik being young pros in England, they all have a great grasp of the English language so alongside the English defenders Holding, Chambers, Jenkinson, Bramall and beyond, as well as Kolasinac fitting in nicely, our core should have absolutely no issues with an English goalkeeper. Why English? We need a back line leader, someone who will dictate in the native tongue to the defence much like Seaman did all those seasons ago. In scanning the continent, not many foreign candidates fit the bill of being a dominant force with Premier League experience, not currently or potentially good enough to play for Arsenal Football Club.

A few young but relevant names in the Premier League that Arsenal could consider are Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Emi Martinez and Freddie Woodman. These four candidates are currently all twenty-five or younger so fit the bill in that respect. All either speak very good English or are English born which ticks another box, as well as all having experience in English and International levels of football.

Jordan Pickford cost Everton roughly £30 million, this would mean that any purchase from Arsenal would cost upwards of such fee and for a goalie with only a season and a bit of top-level experience and no senior England caps, such price would be too much, regardless of existing or potential ability. There is certainly more value per experience in other options around the league.

Emi Martinez has a handful of appearances for the Gunners predominantly over the last 3 or 4 seasons, mainly being tested in the league cup. Perhaps this loan season at Getafe will be the making of him and convince us all that he can one day become our long-term number one. As it stands though, it is hard to make a call either way on Emi Martinez (and whether he can become world class and claim our number one jersey) but at present day, there is one other candidate plying his trade in the PL that undoubtedly fits the bill.

Step forward Jack Butland, now England’s number two goalkeeper and pushing Joe Hart all the way for top spot. One solid season from Butland at Stoke, with Joe Hart continuing to be inconsistent at West Ham, could see him forge a place in Southgate’s first XI for the World Cup next year. With a Premier League win percentage of 34.78% (considering this is not at a top six club) and 3.46 average saves per game, should Arsenal sign Butland they would be getting a talented young man already primed for the big time. In an average Stoke team that now possesses more talent going forward than it does in defence, Butland has an impressive goals conceded per game average of 1.26 through 46 appearances keeping 15 clean sheets. In comparison to Petr Cech (0.31 through 407 apps with 151 clean sheets), Butland has started to build very impressive stats and certainly fits the bill for nationality and experience references. Petr Cech has played over 400 games, all at a top six club with better than average players and better than average defensive lines. Although Butland has yet to hit 50 PL apps, he does boast a solid set of stats and a huge athletic frame that suggests he can go on and take the next step. Interestingly, and usually important to Arsenal, Butland completes 8.5 accurate long passes per game compared to Cech’s 4.8, and possesses a passes per match average of 27.83 compared to Cech’s 16.97. Passing is fundamental to the Arsenal way and Butland possesses the desire to pass, and pass regularly, something that Arsenal demands from their number one.

Would a move to Arsenal be of interest to Jack Butland? Yes – why not? It is the next logical step in his development and if Arsenal can secure a Champions League place for next season, Butland would be performing and testing himself on the biggest stage week in, week out. Even the Europa League (should Arsenal only qualify for this) is a step up from Stoke in the Premier League. Expectations would be higher and although Butland does not have the greatest injury record of late, he does have youth on his side and plenty of years of development ahead of him. If Arsenal could turn his head and convince him to join the club, any potential fee would be big but worth every penny in return, with Stoke having to unwillingly accept that such a move would be good for his career. Although Stoke would want significant remuneration for their star keeper, football is a business and all players strive to become the best. In order to be the best, these players should be plying their trade at the very top and Butland is no different. If Wenger so desires for a new number one next summer, he should dust off the chequebook and sign Butland before the World Cup, and before the post World Cup inflation kicks in. A great tournament can earn anyone a big move; look at Arshavin…so why would Butland be any different? Such transaction may be a risk but Jack Butland is an experienced and educated risk that Arsene and Arsenal Football Club should be taking before next July. Snap him up before any other big fish come circling. Sign him, train him and he will be become one of the world’s best.

A few other candidates that Arsenal may consider who ply their trade outside the Premier League are Berndt Leno, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jan Oblak. Although superstars in their own right, PL club to PL club transactions for an English or home-grown player will usually outweigh transfers from abroad as clubs never want to sell to regular competitors. Leno, Donnrumma and Oblak should definitely be names in the mix for Arsenal’s next number one but the Premier League candidate is Jack Butland. Built like a house, athletic like a gymnast and yet to hit twenty-five, his best years are ahead of him and so far he’s shown exactly why he will eventually surpass Joe Hart as England’s number one. Jack should continue to perform to the best of his abilities and as much as I would like Arsenal to sign him, if we don’t another big club will.

*Statistics accurate at 15/09/2017

Craig Bennett

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