After a series of error-strewn displays earlier this season, West Ham goalkeeper Adrian found himself out of the starting lineup, dropped in favour of Darren Randolph. The Spaniard, who had been solid for much of the previous three years, is also out of contract in the summer, meaning he is unlikely to force his way back into Slaven Bilić’s team.
However, while Randolph has done a reasonable job this term, he is unlikely to be West Ham’s long term number one choice. And, with that in mind, they must look to bring in another goalkeeper when the summer transfer window opens up.
Here, Football Whispers looks at five possible solutions to West Ham’s goalkeeping problem.
Every time Willy Caballero has played in the Premier League for Manchester City this season, they have won. It’s an impressive statistic, especially considering the Argentine has been his team’s second choice for much of the campaign.
Pep Guardiola caused some controversy when shipping out Joe Hart to make way for Claudio Bravo upon his arrival at the club, with the incoming ‘keeper signed due to his ability with the ball at feet. However, the former Barcelona shot-stopper has made a number of high-profile mistakes and has failed to provide a commanding presence behind City’s defence. Caballero was reinstated to the team in January, replacing Bravo, and he has not looked back since, keeping three clean sheets in four outings.
At 35 years of age, Caballero may not be a strategic choice for West Ham, although it’s worth remembering some goalkeepers play on into their early 40s. And, with his contract expiring this summer, he would also be available on a free transfer. He’s experienced, has played at the top level in Spain and England, and is also comfortable with the ball at feet. In short, he could be a bargain.
While Caballero stayed on and earned the chance to prove himself under Guardiola, Hart was given no such opportunity at Manchester City this season. Immediately sent out on loan to Torino, England’s number one has revived his career in Italy with some exceptional performances.
The 29-year-old received praise for not only looking to another league with his future on the line, but actively trying to settle in a new environment. He has shown great respect for the culture and language in Turin, and Torino fans love him for it. However, he has not had an easy job on his hands playing for Siniša Mihajlović’s side, who have conceded the sixth-highest amount of goals in Serie A.
That record has little to do with Hart, whose reactions remain outstanding, but he has also made the occasional blunder, suggesting he may never quite be as reliable as some of his peers.
Nonetheless, he would be a good addition for West Ham, while it could also be a good move for Hart.
Teenage goalkeepers are all the rage nowadays. In Italy, 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma is already playing regularly, and well, for AC Milan, and has earned two caps for the Italian senior side.
Over in Ligue 1, the ‘French Donnarumma’ has emerged in the form of 18-year-old Toulouse goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
Focused and agile, Lafont lacks the imposing physical presence of Donnarumma, but he makes up for that with an unerring solidity that belies his tender years.
Fundamentally, he is a strong shot-stopper with sound judgement and according to Bernard Diomede, his former coach at France under-17 level, Lafont is good in other areas too.
“He's good with his feet,” Diomede says.
“He can make two or three saves in quick succession or come out to claim dangerous crosses even if he's been quiet all game. That, for me, is what a top-class keeper is.”
Unsurprisingly, several big clubs including Juventus and Arsenal have been linked with the youngster. However, to further his career prospects, Lafont may be wise to join a club with better chance of regular game time. West Ham could provide him with that.
After several years of struggling to find a consistently reliable number one, Sunderland found hope in the form of an academy graduate in Jordan Pickford. Academy goalkeeping coach Mark Prudhoe saw the 22-year-old’s rise coming, saying.
“From a young age we thought something of him, and he’s delivering on that promise,” said Prudhoe.
As part of a relegation-threatened team with one of the leakiest defences in the Premier League, Pickford has found himself involved in almost every game. Yet, thanks to his positioning and athleticism, he has performed admirably in spite of the constant bombardment.
In October, his displays were recognised by England manager Gareth Southgate, who called him into the senior squad for a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. While Pickford didn’t play, that call-up acted as confirmation of his vast potential.
If West Ham want a goalkeeper who has a good understanding of the Premier League, has been frequently tested, and can play now while bringing promise for the future, Pickford would be the ideal signature.
Poland have a raft of talented goalkeepers at their disposal currently. Łukasz Fabiański has been integral to Swansea in recent years, while Artur Boruc remains Bournemouth’s number one.
In Spain, Przemysław Tytoń plays for Deportivo La Coruña, while in Italy, Wojciech Szczęsny turns out regularly for Roma. The latter has actually been somewhat responsible for the development of another quality Polish ‘keeper.
With Szczęsny establishing himself between the posts for Roma over the last two seasons, Lukasz Skorupski found himself loaned out to Empoli. In Tuscany, the 25-year-old’s performances have impressed, and in 2016-17 he has been one of the finest players in Serie A.
Composed and with excellent reflexes, Skorupski has been vital to Empoli’s staying out of the relegation zone this term. Even if Roma persist with his compatriot, Szczesny, a move to a bigger club, such as West Ham, should come his way soon.
The good news for the Hammers is that, considering Roma tend to sell a lot of their best young talent, as well as the fact they have loaned Skorupski out for the last two years, the player should not be too expensive. What's more, at 25 he is only beginning to hit his peak.