A week after Ryan Shawcross committed his long-term future to the club, Stoke City manager Tony Pulis is now moving to deny reports that goalkeeper Asmir Begovic will leave the Britannia Stadium for a bigger club in January.
It is not the first time that the Bosnian goalkeeper has been linked with moves away from the Potters, with a move to Chelsea a couple of seasons ago mooted to the extent that Begovic was even reported to have handed in a transfer request in order to force the move through.
Then, the move seemed a little strange to say the least. Not only had Begovic only just made the move from Portsmouth, where he usurped David James between the sticks, to Stoke, but he had not even established himself as their regular number one as Pulis opted for a rotation policy between him and Thomas Sorensen. It was right and proper that Begovic at least cemented himself as Stoke’s first-choice before, in all probability, becoming Petr Cech’s understudy at Stamford Bridge.
However, a couple of years on and now it can be argued that, were Begovic to move on in January to one of the top five or six Premier League sides, it would be to become an almost-certain starter. The 25-year-old’s record of only conceding 15 goals in 15 games, seven matches of which he claimed a clean sheet, tallies up with the very best in the league and certainly betters what the likes of Manchester United can muster at the moment.
Indeed, just a look around the top clubs and it is clear just why Begovic is courting such interest. Manchester United seem unable to choose between David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard. Liverpool’s Pepe Reina appears to be an interminable rut of form, while Chelsea’s Petr Cech appears to finally be slowing down. Everton’s Tim Howard is struck by a similar affliction, while Arsenal are currently mired in their own goalkeeping spiral of woe.
What all these big clubs look for in a top-class goalkeeper is one thing that Begovic produces in abundance: consistency and reliability. Most of the goalkeepers in the Premier League these days are top shot-stoppers, but what separates the best from the very good is their concentration and just how unlikely they are to make mistakes.
When was the last time Begovic was highlighted for making an error that cost his side a goal? Yes, of course, the pressure at Stoke is rather different to the one he may find at an Arsenal or a Manchester United, but the fact is that Begovic’s consistency at the moment cannot be faulted. It is this consistency which spreads to the defence, who begin to have more faith in both their own abilities and that of their goalkeeper. Can the same thing be said at Arsenal at present, for example?
The good news for Stoke fans is that Begovic himself has voiced his commitment to the cause on several occasions and, with the team currently performing so well in the Premier League, the momentum at the Britannia continues to gather.
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