Talking Tactics

Newcastle hopes safe in hands of Dubravka

Adrian Clarke 14 Apr 2018
Martin Dubravka, Newcastle

Adrian Clarke looks at how on-loan goalkeeper has helped Magpies ease their fears of relegation

The arrival of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka on loan from Sparta Prague in January has proved to be an important moment of Newcastle United's season.

Four wins in six matches since the Slovakia international came into the side have taken the Magpies up to 10th place.

Now only two points shy of 40, Rafa Benitez’s men must believe a home win over Arsenal this Sunday would all but secure their Premier League status.

Replacing Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow, who had shared goalkeeping duties across the first 26 matches, Dubravka immediately stamped his mark.

He had an impressive debut at home against Manchester United, as Newcastle won 1-0, and has since produced a string of assured displays while keeping two more clean sheets.

Confident and commanding

One of Dubravka’s great strengths is his command of his penalty area.

When crosses are sent into into the box, the 29-year-old is much more confident than his goalkeeping team-mates at claiming the ball.

This was an area that Elliot particularly struggled with. On average he makes half the number of catches, while in 16 starts he failed to claim four crosses that he came out for.

Statistically, Dubravka is in fact the most prolific taker of crosses in the competition. This strong presence and assertiveness has helped relieve pressure at key moments.

Most high claims per match 2017/18
GKClub Succ. claims per match Total
Martin DubravkaNEW1.710
Nick PopeBUR1.441
Lukasz Fabianski SWA1.238
Mat Ryan BHA0.930
Petr Cech ARS0.929
Ben FosterWBA0.929

He has not been overworked but, when called upon, Dubravka has made a number of fine reaction saves.

Three stand out. On his debut he sensationally denied Anthony Martial in a one v one, and he has made spectacular stops to thwart Steve Cook and Dejan Lovren from set-pieces.

His speed and decisiveness as a "sweeper keeper" must also have attracted Benitez in recruiting him.

Dubravka’s willingness to come out of his area and clear danger has allowed Newcastle to push forward and play further up the pitch.

Reliable shield

It should also be noted that the Slovak has benefited from consistent team selection. Benitez's back four has been unchanged across the last six PL matches.

Paul Dummett, Florian Lejeune, Jamaal Lascelles and DeAndre Yedlin have formed a solid rearguard that appears to offer their goalkeeper better protection than at any other stage of the season.

Dubravka averages 1.5 saves per appearance, compared with 3.5 for Darlow and 2.8 for Elliot.

Interestingly, neither of the current back-up goalkeepers have made a single appearance in 2017/18 behind the current back four.

Free-scoring Arsenal will certainly not find it easy to break down Newcastle's defence, or beat Dubravka, on Sunday.

How Newcastle's goalkeepers compare
 ElliotDarlowDubravka
 Matches 16106
 Clean sheets323
 Mins per goal conceded68.660108
 Saves/902.83.51.5
 Save success rate67.7%70.0%64.3%
 Succ. high claims13910
 Punches932
 Succ. sweeper clearances/900.620.10.83
Also in this series 

Part 2: How Kenedy has given Newcastle fresh impetus
Part 3: Eriksen and Silva worthy of centre stage
Part 4: Why Austin can be Southampton's saviour

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