It is safe to say that few Newcastle fans would have been aware of Martin Dubravka’s exploits with Sparta Prague before the Magpies announced the Slovakian stopper as a new arrival on loan in January 2018. But all it took was 90 minutes when he made his debut on the 11th of February, and the goalkeeper was already being labelled as a class act after heroically keeping Manchester United at bay to seal a famous 1-0 victory.
Two years on he is still the man between the sticks and more often than not the first name on the team sheet for Newcastle. It would perhaps be harsh to say his performances had dropped off, as there have been some outrageous individual displays this term, most notably the frankly undeserving 2-0 victory over high flying Sheffield United. It took a colossal performance to end the Blades’ seven-match unbeaten run, but on occasions, Dubravka has been missing his usual sharpness, and it has cost the Magpies.
No player in the Premier League has made more errors leading to goals than the Newcastle stopper this term, five, two more than the much-maligned duo of David De Gea and Jordan Pickford. However, no top-flight goalkeeper has made more saves than Dubravka this season, 132, 15 more than Aaron Ramsdsle in second.
The statistics typify the highs and lows of the 31-year-old’s campaign; on the whole, his consistency has been fairly remarkable. Still, occasionally he has lacked sharpness and let himself down via costly mistakes. Newcastle have responded in the best way possible, by bringing former Magpies academy stopper, Mark Gillespie, back to his boyhood club.
Last term the 28-year-old kept 11 clean sheets in 30 Scottish Premiership matches for Motherwell. He’s high on confidence, and his former academy coach revealed the goalkeeper believes he will be number two next season.
Gillespie’s arrival could prove to be the perfect antidote to Dubravka’s increasing error count. So far, the Slovakian’s position as number one has been under little threat from either Karl Darlow or Rob Elliot, who is now a free agent. Acquiring a player who will be determined to represent his boyhood club and threaten to take Dubravka’s place, even if just for a few games a season, might be precisely what the Slovakian international needs to iron out his mistakes.
Hopefully, having another goalkeeper join will serve as a warning to Dubravka that he is not the undisputed number one on Tyneside. He remains Newcastle’s first choice, but some pressure from behind may help to eradicate the 31-year-old’s errors and push him onto a new level of performance as the pair compete for the goalkeeper’s jersey.