With first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech touch and go to recover in time for Saturday’s opening day curtain raiser against West Brom, the focus is on the backup keepers in Chelsea’s squad and frankly, Hilario and Ross Turnbull haven’t done much to inspire confidence amongst Chelsea fans.
It seems that Carlo Ancelotti himself has been questioning the ability of his two backups as reports have been linking the Chelsea boss with a move for Stoke City’s Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to ease his crisis of confidence and off the back of some of the pre-season performances, he would be right to be looking for new blood.
Hilario has had an unconvincing pre-season in between the sticks for Chelsea and was at fault for Eintract Frankfurt’s opening goal in Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat in Germany. Hilario collected a John Terry backpass but instead of putting his foot through it, the Portuguese keeper inexplicably tried to dribble round the onrushing attacker Partick Ochs who tackled the hapless Hilario and slotted the ball high into the roof of the empty net. Hilario’s decision making was called into question once again when in the second half, his attempted clearance was charged down only for his fellow Portuguese Ricardo Carvalho to clear a goal bound effort from Frankfurt forward Halil Altintop.
Like Hilario, Ross Turnbull has had his share of pre-season woes. In the previous friendly against Martin Jol’s Ajax, Turnbull had a game to forget after the former Middlesbrough man scored an own goal for Ajax’s opening goal and then dropped a massive howler to allow Siem de Jong the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net for Ajax’s second.
Ajax’s Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg sent a long clearance downfield which Turnbull rushed to collect on the edge of his penalty area. However, the Chelsea goalie misjudged the flight of the ball and proceeded to let go of the ball that he had collected to stop his momentum from carrying the ball outside of the penalty box. Ajax striker Siem de Jong collected the loose ball and finished probably the easiest chance he has had for a very long time.
Chelsea’s problem with their backup keepers is that they are exactly that: backup for Petr Cech. Hilario was brought in by Jose Mourinho as a third choice goalkeeper behind Cech and Carlo Cudicini and was given a run in the team following injuries to both. Similarly, Ross Turnbull was bought from Middlesbrough to perform the same function as he knows he isn’t as good as Petr Cech. Without pressure and competition for Cech’s starting spot in the Chelsea goal, there is little chance of Hilario and Turnbull improving as goalkeepers as they are content in their role as understudy. A solution to this problem would be for Ancelotti to either bring in an a more experienced goalkeeper who would be happy to back up Cech or else buy a young, up and coming goalkeeper that has the potential to genuinely challenge Cech for the starting job and keep the Czech Republic keeper at the top of his game.