Will we see a changing of the goalkeeping guard this season?

With the permanent signing of Areola this summer, what does that mean for him and Fabianski?

Lukasz Fabianski (WHU) picks up the ball at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

Can you believe that the new season is upon us already? It only seems like yesterday that we were saying farewell to Mark Noble.

As another campaign begins though, it’s time to look to the future, and one player who I am glad to see has joined us permanently is goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who we saw a few times last season. 

Areola joined from Paris St Germain in a deal worth somewhere between nine and 12 million euros — in English money, somewhere around £8m- £10m.

I’ve been impressed with the 29-year-old shot stopper in what I’ve seen so far.

In our fantastic European campaign, as well as the cup competitions last season, some of his performances were memorable.

In particular, I remember him being a crucial part of the side that beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the League Cup last season, where he made his debut, but it’s important not to forget the match against Manchester City either, won on penalties, with Areola making a fantastic save from John Stones in particular.

Europe

In our Europa League campaign, Areola made 11 appearances and only conceded eight goals in those matches.

These are stats that you wouldn’t traditionally associate with a club like West Ham.

Of course, it was a team effort, but you need a goalkeeper that gives the outfield players confidence, and I always feel that he is a safe pair of hands, not necessarily true of some goalkeepers that have played for us in the past.

We shouldn’t really be surprised to be honest, as Areola has a lot of experience.

He was an academy graduate from PSG: he made his senior debut for the club in 2013 for a team who had already been crowned champions.

He then spent some time out on loan to various clubs with stints at Lens, Bastia and Villarreal. 

In particular, it was his time at the Spanish side that really put him on the map.

Clean sheets

In 37 matches played, he kept 15 clean sheets, and he also broke the club record for length of time before conceding a goal with a whopping 620 minutes (10 hours and 20 minutes).

After his time at Villarreal, Areola returned to PSG, establishing himself as first-choice goalkeeper and helping the side to a domestic treble.

During this time he also played for the French national side, having risen up through the youth ranks.

He was called up to the French World Cup squad in 2018, serving as third choice goalkeeper and not actually playing but lifted the trophy anyway, becoming one of a handful of uncapped players to do so. 

Areola got his chance to start in goal for the national side when playing in the Nations League match against Germany later that year, keeping a clean sheet and being named man of the match.

It’s fair to say that I think, given his history and some of the form we saw last season, that we have a bit of a gem on our hands. This of course, though, puts a question mark over the future of Lucasz Fabianski.

Only one player can play in goal at any one time, and whilst Super Fab has been brilliant for us over recent seasons, I did start to feel last season that maybe age was catching up with him a little.

Transition

He’s now 37 years old, and has already retired from international football. I am just wondering if this is going to be the season of transition, where the goalkeeper jersey gets handed over. 

I still think that Fabianski has a part to play for us, but I would be quite content if we ended the season with Areola as the number one, but with Fabianski as back-up; both may be needed in the coming season as we again face three cup competitions and the league.

Many West Ham fans think that we will do extremely well to match the levels of where we were last season, with a worrying dip in form towards the end of the previous campaign. 

I happen to subscribe to that view, and would love to be proved wrong — but if performances do drop, you just know that Moyes is going to do everything to ensure that we become hard to beat, and that starts with the goalkeeper.

Areola is an important part of West Ham’s future, and I suspect that this will be the season where we start to see that.

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