Brentford’s acquisition of towering goalkeeper Mark Flekken serves as a further testament to their astute recruitment process.
Signing the 30-year-old Netherlands international, who is at the peak of his powers following an exceptional year with Freiburg, is unquestionably a shrewd transfer, as he should seamlessly fill the void left by the soon to depart star David Raya.
Possessing so many of the traits coveted in a modern goalkeeper, Bees manager Thomas Frank was full of praise when asked for his thoughts on Flekken. “We’re very happy to have signed Mark,” he explained.
“He’s a player with a lot of quality who will strengthen our goalkeeper group. He has big experience and joins us after two great seasons with Freiburg, who have just had a top season in the Bundesliga, finishing fifth and qualifying for the Europa League.
“He was a big part of the team there and now he’s coming to us and will hopefully make the group better and the team better. He’s a very good shot-stopper and comfortable with the ball at his feet. His distribution is very impressive.”
Flekken himself was absolutely delighted when speaking on his move, with it clear what a special achievement this is for him in his remarkable journey to the top, which saw him only make one top-flight appearance prior to his 26th birthday. “If you had told me seven years ago when I was in the third division of Germany that, one day, I would be playing in the Premier League, I would have probably knocked you down,” he insisted
“But it’s a dream come true and my next big step. And I hope we can take the next steps as a squad and as a club as well. I’m a ball-playing goalkeeper. I try to bring calmness into the squad and I’ll always try to direct the guys in front of me – I’ll help them to help me. The only way to achieve as much as possible is together, so that’s one of the key things I want to bring.”
Bringing composure, experience and confidence, the presence of Flekken should see him act as an ideal replacement for Raya.
To start with his distribution, and this is a key component of his game, with this ensuring he’s a fantastic man to lure out opponents to then cut through the press.
So comfortable and brave on the ball in the face of pressure, there’s much to admire about his build-up prowess, where he not only uses his crisp passing to bypass adversaries, but also constantly offers himself as an option to support colleagues.
Knowing where to position himself to provide passing angles and to form overloads, the way he can then execute with his considered, incisive passing over a range of distances is a joy to watch.
As can be seen in some of the graphics below, whether it be striking penetrative line breaking passes, hitting raking switches of play, launching through balls in behind or down the channels, delivering precise short passes or recycling possession, he can do it all.
Having kept 13 clean sheets in his 34 Bundesliga games last term, the most in the division, the 195 cm giant proved his worth between the posts emphatically as well on his way to helping propel Freiburg to an incredible fifth placed finish.
Underlining what an accomplished shot-stopper he is from his powerful base posture, there’s been much to like about his capacity to explosively push off to pull off some terrific stops.
Couple this with his sharp reactions and reflexes, and this enhances what a tough man to beat he is, for he can get across, down and upwards with aplomb to deny opponents.
Concentrated, focused, adept at reading the intentions of the shooter and at picking up the ball’s path, the fact he ranked second for most saves (112), fourth for total prevented goals (2.98), sixth for prevented goals p90 (0.08) and 11th for reflex saves in the Bundesliga highlights his quality aptly.
Proactive and never afraid of leaving his line, it’s admirable how he races out to nullify attacks to clear danger and rushes out in 1v1s while making himself as wide as possible to bring the heat on attackers bearing down on goal. Coming in fifth for leaving his line among Bundesliga net minders, this illustrates his aggressive approach.
Also holding his own in an aerial sense, Flekken uses his height, powers of anticipation and hulking frame to claim crosses by rising above potential foes, making vital punches and to physically impose himself on opponents.
Although he’s not a household name in England yet, it shouldn’t take long before the multifaceted keeper establishes himself in the Premier League courtesy of his exceptional skills.
Going from strength to strength in recent years, this dream move is a deserved reward for all his patience, perseverance and hard work over the years.
With his best years still ahead of him and him entering an ideal environment for success at Brentford, it’ll be captivating watching Flekken’s progress in his quest to stamp his mark and repay the Bees’ faith for bringing him in on a four-year deal.
While he has big shoes to fill, there’s no denying Flekken’s the right man for the job to take over from the masterful and very popular Raya in goal at the Gtech.