Post-Season Review: Goalkeepers
This series is going to review each of Middlesbrough's remaining squad members based on their performances last season, finishing on a rating out of 10. Before looking to the future as a forecast for what Middlesbrough fans could expect from each player moving forward.
The squad members have been split into their different positions including Goalkeeper, Fullback, Centre Back, Central Midfielders, Wingers and Strikers.
This article will cover Goalkeepers.
Middlesbrough currently have three senior goalkeepers on their books: Tomas Mejias, Dejan Stojanovic and Aynsley Pears. Yet Middlesbrough have been linked with moves for another goalkeeper during the current transfer window as it appears that Neil Warnock isn't content with the goalkeepers at his disposal.
The Spanish goalkeeper is partway through his second stint at the club after first arriving under Aitor Karanka and he has not seen much first team action during his return. However it is reasonable to expect that the 31 year old to still be struggling with the same issues since he has yet to force his way into the first team.
Middlesbrough fans will be all too aware of his mistakes during his first stint under Aitor Karanka as he seemed to lose the confidence of the defence with his inability to command his box. This issue was made worse by the fact that he has been trained in continental style goalkeeping which favours parrying and punching over the risk of losing the ball to a failed catch or hold. However catching and holding onto the ball are key components in English Championship level goalkeeping and so he suffered for a style that would have been considered a positive in central Europe.
Still he had good reflexes and positioning that made him a good shot stopper, had he been more successful in other parts of goalkeeping he could have become Middlesbrough's long term goalkeeper.
Neil Warnock's search for a new goalkeeper is not a good sign for Mejias, who, as the third choice goalkeeper, could become available should he garner any interest.
If he does stay then he will be a bit-part player at best, getting occasional outings in the cup.
Middlesbrough signed Dejan Stojanovic for just under £1m during the January transfer window as a long term replacement for Randolph, who had moved to West Ham.
The former St. Galen goalkeeper had to wait a few months before he got a decent run in the first team and he still didn't get into double figure appearances. This only provides a small. sample size to judge the player on.
The 27 year old managed to keep 3 clean sheets out of his 8 games, which is a respectable return, particularly since he was playing behind a wobbly defence. During such performances he displayed great reflexes in saving shots from various distances. He was also a decent distributor, contributing a large amount of long balls to the build up play that Neil Warnock prefers.
However this isn't the full story as his positioning was called into question on a number of occasions. Meanwhile his style of goalkeeping saw him being targeted at corners by the opposition. That lead to some shaky performances, the worst of which saw him fail to make a single save. He ultimately conceded 10 goals which is a respectable return considering the number of appearances he had.
Middlesbrough's scouting department clearly saw something in the Austrian keeper that made the club fork out serious money during a time that they were tightening the pursestrings.
He has also displayed his capabilities in a number of games at the back end of the season. However consistency and adapting to the English game are two big concerns for him.
Yet Middlesbrough's interesting in a new goalkeeper will concern Stojanovic who would have been hoping to get extended time to adjust to English football, behind a more secure defence, in order to stake a claim for the goalkeeper shirt. How his season unfolds could well depend on how Boro perform in their search for a new number 1.
Should Middlesbrough find a goalkeeper in the current window then he could be shifted out to a team in the lower leagues to adjust to English football. If this is the case then it would quickly become a make or break season for Stojanovic. He would have to put in some impressive performances and show he has adapted to the English game or, at 27, the club could cut their losses and sell him on.
Should the club fail to bring in a new goalkeeper then Stojanovic will probably start the season in the same place that he ended it: vying with Pears for the number 1 shirt.
Middlesbrough's academy graduate ended up playing in most of Boro's games this season, as he first filled in for the injured Randolph before taking the keeper shirt for the majority of the games after the Ireland International left.
Aynsley Pears made 24 appearances with 7 clean sheets last season and although his clean sheet per game ration is worse than Stojanovic's it is important to note that most of Stojanovic's clean sheets came with the general upturn in form under Neil Warnock.
While the former u-19 England International's shot stopping and reflexes may not be at the same standard of Stojanovic, they are by no means poor and his English goalkeeping style lends him well to protecting his box from corners.
Despite these attributes Pears has been liable to a few high profile mistakes that have cost Middlesbrough in certain games, which is to be expected from a young goalkeeper who has just broken into the first team.
At 22 years of age Aynsley Pears is still in the infancy of a goalkeeping career which can reach into a players 40's and he has already shown aptitude for this level of football. While playing with a better defence, could show serious improvements to his statistics.
The youngster will be hoping to have another crack at the goalkeeping shirt. However Neil Warnock's desire to bring in another goalkeeper may well put a spanner in those plans.
Still, he is young and his local and familial links to t he club will probably see him stay at the club next season. If that is the case then it would be wise to send him on loan to another football league club in order to iron out his mistakes.
The Ultimate decision:
The outcome of Middlesbrough's search for a goalkeeper will have a direct impact on the roles of Mejias, Stojanovic and Pears come next season.
If Boro get their man in the transfer window then he will become the nailed on first choice with either Stojanovic or Pears staying as second choice, with the other going out on loan. This will be a difficult decision to make as both could do with exposure to English football league matches, while the team will need apt cover if the first choice keeper becomes unavailable.
Meanwhile there is a high chance that Mejias will stay at the club as the third choice goalkeeper with an outside cane of him being moved on permanently.
Should Boro fail to sign another goalkeeper than they will most probably go into next season as they ended the last: with Aynsley Pear and Dejan Stojanovic competing for the shirt with Mejias as third choice.