Goalkeepers are the last line of defence for any team. It is often their crucial saves at vital times that decide the outcome of a game, akin to how their blunders and gaffes see teams throw away three vital points.
With most European leagues coming out of the winter break, thereby leading to a reduced January fixture list, here are my top five nominations for the January Goalkeeper of the Month.
Christian Wetklo, FSV Mainz (Germany)
Picking up where he left off with Mainz’s 3-1 victory over Stuttgart in December, Wetklo has been an integral part of the Bundesliga‘s surprise package this season and he was in inspired form as he kept two clean sheets in as many appearances as his side earned a point against Freiburg at home before thrashing Greuther Furth 3-0 on their travels.
The two games saw a whopping 24 shots directed at him, which only goes to underline the rangy German’s prowess in front of goal.
Morgan de Sanctis, SSC Napoli (Italy)
Former Italy international de Sanctis may have conceded three goals in four games as Napoli went unbeaten after their winter break, but it will matter little as he was able to pull of sixteen saves to propel his side to second in the Serie A table, just three points behind league leaders Juventus.
Earning a clean sheet at home to Palermo, de Sanctis was instrumental in his side’s victories against Roma and Parma and helped them earn a point away in Florence, despite picking up a yellow card in an excellent performance against the Romans.
One of the reasons Everton are on the cusp of a Champions League berth is the presence of their American keeper Tim Howard.
In electric form all season, Howard kept two clean sheets and conceded only two goals in four games as David Moyes’ men went through an unbeaten January. Successfully parrying twelve shots directed at him by Swansea, Southampton (both goalless), Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion (both 2-1), the United States international has been one of the key men in the Liverpool-based side’s ascent into the top four.
Cedric Carrasso, Girondins de Bordeaux (France)
With just one loss to show in January, French outfit Bordeaux are fourth in the table and on course to qualify for Europe.
Les Girondins began January with a 2-0 away win at Rennes, where Carrasso made several important saves to keep his team in the battle for the European places. Despite being consigned to a home defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain, Carrasso and his team mates came back strongly to win 1-0 away at fellow top four challengers Nice to ensure they ended January in the top four, with the France international saving an average of three shots every game.
Ruben Martinez, Rayo Vallecano (Spain)
Now in only their second consecutive season in Spain, Rayo Vallecano have on-loan Malaga keeper Ruben Martinez to thank for a January in which they lost just one of their four games.
Making eighteen saves as his team impressively beat Athletic Bilbao (2-1 away), Getafe (3-1 home) and Betis (3-0 home) but lost to Granada (0-2 away), Rayo are in a respectable seventh place in the Spanish Primera Liga table as they attempt to build on their attempt to avoid relegation last season.
What is even more impressive is that they are only two points away from a hallowed Champions League berth.Published 05 Feb 2013, 16:09 IST