Newcastle United have started putting in the building blocks for next season with the confirmation of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka’s signing on a permanent deal.
Not only have the club tied down a talented player in a key position, but it also sends out a positive message for the club going forward.
So what can we take from the signing of the Slovakian?
Newcastle get a very, very good player
The most important on-field aspect is that Newcastle have signed a very good keeper.
One who has proved, albeit using a small sample size, to be one of the better keepers in the league.
From the moment he took to the field in a Newcastle jersey, Dubravka showed that he belonged, putting in an excellent debut performance in a 1-0 win over Manchester United.
And it shows a lot that Benitez was comfortable to drop the Slovakian into such an encounter.
He is the type of keeper, and on-field personality, who calms the crowd. Dubravka has a strong and robust presence, who seems to become bigger in the eyes of a striker, and will be worth a significant amount of points.
A clear indication that Rafa Benitez stays
Aside from celebrating retaining a talented keeper, Newcastle fans will have taken great belief and relief from Benitez’s comments.
“This was one of the key positions we had identified we needed to strengthen and had been concerned about, so it is excellent news that we are able now to sign him on a permanent basis.”
Those are the words of a manager firmly planning for next season. He even went on to praise head of recruitment Steve Nickson and managing director Lee Charnley.
It suggests that there is a bit more joined-up thinking as well as tranquility behind the scenes.
Dubravka became the fifth goalkeeper used in the past two seasons by Newcastle.
Such a number isn’t healthy for any team, despite the club’s success in getting back into the top flight and then into the Premier top 10.
As mentioned, Benitez wants a goalkeeper he can trust, who will form a key part of the team’s spine. Like Pepe Reina did at Liverpool.
Having a tried and trusted stopper behind the defence brings a certain serenity to the rest of the team. The likes of Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune can be reassured that they have a formidable last line if they do slip up.
The 29-year-old has impressed with his confidence and authority, especially when coming for crossed balls. He has that steeliness which is required in a top goalkeeper.
It is also reassuring that Dubravka is not the type to want to be involved in the game and make a name for himself. Such a goalkeeper simply breeds uncertainty.
Positive message to the fans
Michael Owen. The former England striker is the answer to “who is Newcastle’s record signing?”.
It is quite remarkable that a club the size of Liverpool have yet to break a transfer record set in 2005, especially with the growth of English football.
Fans, understandably, are frustrated with the club’s frugality, even more so when they see smaller clubs show more adventure in the transfer market.
The signing of Dubravka, even if he only cost around £4million, sends out an early positive message that this summer could be different, that the club have a better plan and they will be more forthright with their recruitment.
It is a big win for the club, and shows prospective signings the calibre of player they are interested in.
The stats back it up
Of the 27 goalkeepers to have made at least 10 appearances in the Premier League in the past season only three have a better ratio in terms of goals conceded per 90 minutes.
Those three are Loris Karius, Ederson and David de Gea.
The 0.78 goals conceded per 90 minutes in his 12 appearances has Dubravka ahead of Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris and Nick Pope.
It is also substantially better than Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot. The former conceded an average of 1.41 goals per 90 minutes in his 10 matches, while the latter was 1.23 goals per 90 minutes in 16 outings.