While injury news if far from ideal of course, Martin Dubravka’s reported setback in his recovery from the heel problem that has kept him of the season so far is, at least, manageable.
The Times claim the Slovakian is set to be out of action for a further five to six weeks after ‘disappointment’ when the moon boot used to aid his recovery following surgery at the end of August was removed.
Indeed, while there is little doubting Dubravka’s ability (no ‘keeper made more saves than him last season in the Premier League), the form of Karl Darlow has been a major positive of Newcastle’s early season. While the 30-year-old has largely played a back-up role since Dubravka arrived in January 2018, he has proved a genuine contender for the No.1 spot and there were even suggestions Gareth Southgate was monitoring him ahead of a potential call-up to the England team.
His 11 saves to keep the Magpies in it away at Tottenham Hotspur proved invaluable and was reminiscent of a certain Tim Krul on the same site many years ago now and, according to FBRef, has the highest save percentage in the Premier League this season with .818% from 18.
Considering he’s second in the whole division when it comes to post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed (+1.2, with positive numbers suggesting an above average ability to stop shots), it’s fair to say Darlow is rediscovering the kind of form that made him a crucial pillar of success when it came to winning promotion from the Championship in 2017.
Should Darlow be dropped for Dubravka when fit?
This isn’t to say he should replace Dubravka, who has proven himself as one of the best stoppers in England pretty much since the day he joined Newcastle and his famous debut in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in January 2018. However, what Darlow has done is prove the Magpies can deal with his absence and that perhaps it may not be as gutting as initially feared back before the season started.