With Manchester United’s 40 year old goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar due to retire at the end of this season and Arsenal’s continuous struggles to find a man that can keep the ball out of the net, both sides are in need of a keeper. Manuel Almunia recently became the latest goalkeeper to prove that seemingly none of Arsenal’s trio want to keep the jersey, after Lucasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny have also made numerous mistakes, including one from Szczesny that arguably cost Arsenal the Carling Cup. United, meanwhile, are still on the hunt for a keeper, as it seems that new signing Anders Lindegaard will not become the new number one.
One of the many names that have been mentioned in connection to both clubs is Dutchman Maarten Stekelenburg. As well as David de Gea, Pepe Reina and Manuel Neuer, Stekelenburg is among the favourites to be snapped up by either one of the two clubs, although doubts over whether Arsene Wenger will splash the cash are not ungrounded. Nevertheless, Wenger did spend £10 million on Thomas Vermaelen, Stekelenburg’s former Ajax teammate, two summers ago.
Stekelenburg has been Holland’s number one ever since Van der Sar retired from international football. He was showcased last summer at the World Cup in South Africa, with the Netherlands reaching the final, only to be beaten by Andres Iniesta’s late strike. He conceded only six times during the tournament, and two of these strikes were penalties. All in all, he has notched up 39 caps, and considering the calibre of performances he has produced so far, it is easy to envisage the figure rising, even if Stekelenburg is already in his late twenties.
Stekelenburg does in theory have all the qualities needed to become a success in the Premier League. At 6’6’’, he is taller than every Arsenal keeper and is known to be commanding when dealing with crosses – a quality which both Fabianski and Szczesny are lacking in. Furthermore, he would probably not cost too much, as he has publicly demanded a move away from the Amsterdam Arena. This would of course suit both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who are equally reluctant to spend much cash on anyone at all in today’s market, which, if you believe Ferguson, represents ‘poor value’.
Whether either will choose to pursue the option of coughing up for the big Dutchman remains to be seen.
In my opinion, though, he would be a safe option for both Arsenal and United, especially considering their alternatives. Fabianski and Szczesny are both talented shot-stoppers, but are prone to mistakes and may not be able to handle the pressure of playing at a top club. Ferguson, meanwhile, is left with Kuszczak and Lindegaard, who we have not seen much of. If either boss wants to take a gamble, nobody can stop them, but Stekelenburg would offer a safer bet for sure.