Mark Schwarzer’s proposed move to Arsenal has proved that there is no age limit for top quality goalkeepers. At 37 he is not a signing for the future, but as someone who can come in and make an immediate impact on first team affairs this is a shrewd move. In his fifteen years in England he has made over 550 appearances in the Premier League and has made his name as one of the most consistent players in the league.
But of course he is not the first goalkeeper to play successfully at the highest level past 35. The likes of Friedel, Van Der Sar, Hahnemann, James and Jaaskelainen are just some of the goalkeepers aged 35 or over who played in last year’s Premiership and all appear to have a good few years left in them. It’s not just a case of new diets or training regimes that is the reason why goalkeepers are playing until around their 40s. Zoff, Shilton, Ogrizovic and Southall are just a few examples of players having extended careers in the past.
Obviously though, the nature of the goalkeeper is slightly different from any other. As on-field players get older and they lose that yard of pace or those last 10 minutes of fitness they are looking at slipping down the leagues in order to prolong their careers. These attributes are not so important for goalkeepers; all a goalkeeper really needs is agility and judgement. It has been proved that both things of these can be maintained at a high level well into your thirties, and far from declining, they seem to improve with age. It makes you think how good Joe Hart can be in 10 years, or how good Chris Kirkland could have been if he’d not been ravaged by injury.
So when Arsene Wenger felt like he needed a new goalkeeper he didn’t want to take any chances. An experienced goalkeeper will not only benefit Arsenal and their title push, but the move must also be irresistible for Schwarzer who has been playing most of his career in the obscurity of the Premier League mid-table. It is notable also that, should Schwarzer sign, it will be a signing out of trend with most of Wenger’s wheelings and dealings – young players with bags of promise being the usual arrivals seen at the Emirates. So the train of thought that goalkeepers improve with age is a valid one, especially bearing in mind the mistakes Fabianski made in crucial games last year.
Written By Karl Sears