How to answer the question on every Reading fan’s lips?

There has been a lot of debate among Reading fans regarding the goalkeeping department at the Madejski this season.

Reading are known to have had some great names between the sticks in the past years, Alex McCarthy and Adam Federici being the most recent keepers to be the Royals’ last line of defence.

Back in in May, the club saw their number 1 Adam Federici depart for Bournemouth. Their number 2, Mikkel Andersen followed in his footsteps, joining FC Midtjylland. This left Reading with young Stuart Moore being the only stopper left in the team.

Reading desperately needed new goalkeepers to start the 2015/2016 campaign and they were quick to recruit some. Steve Clarke chose young U21 goalkeeper Jonathan Bond from Watford and experienced former Premier League goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi from Wigan as Federici’s successors.

Both seem to have found it hard to establish themselves as number 1s and there has been a differing of opinions amongst the Royals supporters regarding the two keepers. They have both had their ups and downs this campaign and even Brian McDermott seems to be finding it difficult to choose one over the other. The question is, who should get the nod?

Ali Al-Habsi

There’s no doubt Al-Habsi is a very experienced footballer, having played in the Premier League for Wigan and internationally for his country. The Omani international established himself as a great goalkeeper and outstanding penalty saver during his time in the top flight, saving 50% of penalties against him, including the likes of Rooney and Aguero.

Al-Habsi managed to take injured Jonathan Bond’s place at the start of the season. His presence doesn’t go unnoticed in Reading’s team, as he is a great leader who communicates with his defenders well and conveys calmness and composure between the sticks. He has also shown his great passion and love for the club and the supporters in the way he celebrates.

However, despite the above, Al-Habsi has made a handful of errors this season which have cost the team. For example, his last minute error against QPR at the Madejski Stadium cost Reading a deserved draw and Steve Clarke his job. His errors have caused many fans to turn their backs on the Omani stopper and many to question whether the 33-year-old is now past his time. He has, however, made some good appearances and made some great saves at important moments, an example being the 2-2 draw against Huddersfield at the Madejski Stadium, in which he made three very important saves to keep Reading in the game. He has also kept three clean sheets for the team so far.

Jonathan Bond

Reading fans were excited to hear the team had signed England U21 goalkeeper Jonathan Bond from Watford in June. The youngster had been followed by scouts from all over the place after his good performances for the Hornets and overall it looked like a great signing for the Royals at the time.

Bond established himself as Reading’s number 1 at the start of the season and he has proven to be a fantastic shotstopper. However, he has had his shaky moments, and you can very much tell that he is inexperienced, due to his decision making. His positioning and kicking are his weaknesses, which have affected the team at times.

The 22-year-old always seems reluctant to come out and collect balls and doesn’t seem to communicate with his defence at all. Although this is understandable, due to his age and lack of experience, it puts pressure on the defenders, which in turn costs the team games.

Bond has shown great shot-stopping ability and reflexes, an example being the game against Hull, in which he made a handful of great reflex saves. However, nowadays goalkeeping is much more than just being a good shotstopper, which is why so much debate has been created regarding whether Ali is the better choice.

Verdict

Both Ali Al-Habsi and Jonathan Bond have their strengths and weaknesses. However, Ali is the overall package. He is a passionate leader, who boasts years of experience and he is also a good shotstopper.

With so many youngsters and loan players the team often looks disjointed, which is why true leaders like McShane and Al-Habsi are needed in the team. On the other hand, Bond is a great prospect who needs time to work on his weaknesses and improve. The problem is, at this moment in time Reading can’t afford to give away time, especially if they hope to fight for the play-offs.

Since both goalkeepers aren’t at their best, would it be better for the club to sign a new goalkeeper, who will replicate the success of people like Alex McCarthy and Alex Federici? It seems to be the last thing on Brian McDermott’s mind right now, so we will have to wait and put up with what we’ve got for the time being.

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