Jussi Jääskeläinen was sitting comfortably as West Ham’s undisputed number 1 after signing in June 2012. But almost a year later and there was a new kid on the scene. His name was Adrián San Miguel del Castillo, or simply put, Adrián.
At 37 years of age, Jääskeläinen was never going to be a long-term player and that was signified by an initial one year contract, which has since been renewed, granting the Finnish ex-international a further year at West Ham. Jääskeläinen played in all of West Ham’s Premier League matches in the 2012/13 season. He was also runnerup in the Hammer of the Year award, beaten only by Winston Reid. Triggering the contract extension for Jussi was therefore as easy of a decision as any.
Adrián’s arrival seemed to have little impact on the starting line-up and after a fantastic defensive start to the season, Jussi was still looking as sharp as ever. The 27 year old Spaniard was stuck on the bench after his arrival from Real Betis. Adrián was a product of the Betis youth academy and was only gifted his debut after a sending off gave him his chance off the bench.
He then managed to hold onto his place and made 32 appearances in La Liga which included 11 clean sheets and a man of the match performance against Real Madrid in a 1-0 victory. His team consequently qualified for the UEFA Europa League but he then chose to risk first team football, for a shot at the Premier League with West Ham United.
Jussi was part of the defence that started the current season conceding just one goal in the opening four Premier League games. He has conceded 27 goals in his 19 appearances this season, with eight clean sheets. This has, of course, largely been with a weakened defence, due to injuries.
Adrián’s patience partially paid off on August 27, 2013 when he made his West Ham United debut in the League Cup versus Cheltenham Town in a 2-1 victory. He conceded the penalty which gifted Cheltenham with their goal so it wasn’t the perfect start. He then made two further League Cup appearances, which both ended in victory against Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur. His first Premier League appearance was away at Manchester United, ending in a 3-1 defeat for the Hammers. Before Tuesday’s game away at Chelsea, he had played a further four games, taking his season total to seven appearances having conceded 16 with two clean sheets.
“The statistics don’t lie” is a common phrase used, and Big Sam would tell you no different, but in this case, I don’t believe they tell you the full story. Jussi’s record is deceptive because of the difference in defence that has played in front of him. Adrián has never had a full strength defence in front of him, and so has been much less fortunate. Equally, Adrián has played in fixtures against the two Manchester clubs away and a home match against an in-form Arsenal side.
Neither keeper has been particularly worse than the other. In fact there has been little to decide between the two throughout the season. However, Adrián has a longterm future with West Ham if he and the club play their cards right so he simply needed to be introduced into the squad as early as possible. He is now learning his trade in the Premier League alongside one of the most experienced goalkeepers of all-time.
He is constantly learning a new lesson through this tough time since his arrival. Adrián has also had far greater fan interaction through the medium of Twitter. He shares his thoughts post-match and also his optimism pre-match.
This goes down very well with the modern day supporter. Having said that, it is certainly not a reason with regards to selection – but nothing more than a bonus. Jussi has been a fantastic servant for the club, and could most certainly do a fantastic job if called upon, however, we’ve all seen Adrián’s ability shine through some dismal team performances. Which ever way Sam decides to go will cause little harm but with a look to the future, Adrián would be my choice, and that’s what it comes down to. Just personal choice.