Player Reviews: The Keepers

Nick MacNee 27th May 2019

Now this depressing season has finally finished, the Fulhamish lads have taken a look back at how each player has performed across the season. In a year to forget, can any of the players hold their head high and be proud of their performances? Armed with your average player rating scores, we take a look!

Sergio Rico

Player Grade: C+

Average Player Rating: 6.03

Writer: Nik Macnee

It’s been a season of ups and downs for Rico. He impressed after his initial start as Fulham’s no.1, and never relinquished the position, but that doesn’t really tell the whole tale. Like many of the squad, he regressed horribly towards the end of Claudio Ranieri’s reign, but improved once Scott Parker picked up the reigns. In particular, there were very impressive shot-stopping performances in Fulham’s three game win streak against Everton, Bournemouth and Cardiff.

It’s easy to see what made Rico such an exciting talent a few years ago at Sevilla. His shot stopping talent is as good as any goalkeeper’s on his day, as is his kicking, but it’s simply a flip of a coin whether he’ll have a good day or not. This is probably why he hasn’t progressed to a higher tier of goalkeeping standards. His tendency to punch in non-pressurised situations from crosses (admittedly, this is something more to do with different GK teachings in other countries) drove many a Fulham fan nuts, although the sarcastic cheering when he did claim a ball was too over the top.

In a sense then, it’s hard to really judge Rico as a player. Is he the non-confident, shaky one that Ranieri had towards the end of his tenure? Or is he the keeper that pulled off miraculous save after save in the three game win streak? The answer, like many things, is probably in the middle, but with his loan return to Sevilla confirmed we may never find out.

Marcus Bettinelli

Player Grade: D+

Average Player Rating: 5.7

Writer: Nik Macnee

I thought it was harsh to replace Betts instantly with Fabri, and later Rico, after promotion to the Premier League. Whilst Fulham certainly had glaring holes that needed to be replaced in their promotion squad (the likes of Stefan Johansen and Abou Kamara come to mind) I’d thought Bettinelli had done enough to at least warrant a starting day role as Fulham’s no.1. But alas, here we are.

After Fabri was binned, Betts’ return coincided with a Fulham win – something which didn’t happen again until he was dropped. In the seven games Fulham did play him, his shot stopping (his supposed strength), let him down badly. Fulham conceded 19 non-penalty goals in the 7 games Bettinelli featured, giving up 13.75 non-penalty xG. Betts therefore conceded over 5 goals more than expected – a pretty poor rate. Whilst the rest of his numbers were strong, for someone who has prided himself on his shot-stopping ability, this was not a good outing for him. Compared to Rico (52.06 non-pen xG conceded, 50 non-pen goals conceded), you have to wonder whether Bettinelli just really struggled in the Premier League because of that porous defence in front of him or it was a genuine regression.

Regardless, after Rico replaced him, Betts wasn’t seen again this season and ultimately opted to have a knee surgery in January. The concerns I have with this are:

  1. This is his second major knee surgery, after the first one came in a collision with Matt Smith at Hull away in the early half of the 2015/16 season. After this, It took a long time for Bettinelli to recover back to his best.
  2. Betts plays a position where athleticism is of the upmost importance. When keepers make saves, catches & punch crosses, they rely heavily on their leaping ability. Strangely enough, you need your knees for this. Having to repair them twice in a big way is the opposite of good.

Simply put, while we might see Bettinelli back for August, how long will it take for him to fully recover from such a lengthy surgery and hit the high standards that he reached towards the end of Fulham’s promotion campaign? All signs point to January 2020, and with Fulham gearing up for an immediate promotion, will they have the patience for Betts to grow back into the role?

Fabri

Player Grade: N/A

Average Player Rating: 5.5

Writer: Nik Macnee

Here’s what I’m actually going to say about Fabri: He made a lot of saves in the two games he was Fulham keeper, was very short for a goalkeeper, and is going to leave in the transfer window this summer.

That’s it.

Here’s what I’m going to actually say about the process behind the signing and management of Fabri: Jokanovic, why are you OK with:

  1. Letting your GK coach (Jose Sambade) recommending a signing
  2. Getting this signing through the door
  3. Deciding you don’t like the signing
  4. Dump both the signing and the coach

It’s absolutely horrific management at any level to know nothing about an incoming player filling one of the most crucial roles in your team. In the end, the move screwed over Jokanovic, Betts, Fabri, and Sambade.

Like many things from this season, this signing in particular should be held up as a giant “Do not do this!” plaque when it comes to transfer management.

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