Newcastle United’s savage injury crisis deepened further with the news that star goalkeeper Nick Pope will be out for four months after dislocating his shoulder during the Magpies’ recent win over Manchester United.
Losing the exceptional Pope is unquestionably a huge blow for both the player and the club, as he’s been in masterful form between the posts both domestically and in Europe. “He’s naturally down because we’ve got huge games coming up and he’s got the Euros ahead of him as well, which he was determined to try to be involved in, and there is still a chance of that for him. But I think his main determination is to come back for us. You never know what situation we will be in at that stage of the season,” manager Eddie Howe said.
“We’re thinking of him because it’s another strange injury for us. There’s no doubt he needs an operation so he will be out for a period of time, we think around four months.”
Having played every minute in the Premier League and Champions League up until his injury, plus kept the joint-most clean sheets in league action, this further underlines what an integral figure he’s been.
“He is contributing massively for us; he has been a huge player. His character is undeniably so good for us, he is very good for the group,” Howe recently said on his sensational form.
“Some of the saves he made in Paris are some of the best I have seen live. In a part of our season where we need everyone to step up and give more, Nick has certainly done that.”
Such a formidable figure in goal for Newcastle, his elite shot-stopping has seen him almost single-handedly keep his team in matches and helped secure crucial results due to his immense output.
A towering figure to beat, the 191 cm net custodian uses his massive wingspan and long legs to make himself as wide as possible to stretch out to deny shots and to shine in a range of differing situations.
In addition, his sharp reactions, reflexes and anticipation heighten his worth, for he’s on the balls of his feet and ready to respond once he identifies what the ball holder’s intentions are. Moving accordingly and typically sound with his footwork, these extra features of his game have served him well on countless occasions.
The 31-year-old’s excellent judgement and decision making accompany the aforementioned brilliantly, for he assesses situations quickly and coherently to take the right course of action to deal with whatever scenario he’s confronted with.
Indeed, this sees him often choose the ideal moment when to rush off his line and act as a sweeper keeper, when to claim or punch crosses and what direction he needs to push off to make his saves, as he shows marvellous concentration and is rapid at picking up the ball’s trajectory.
Adding mightily to Newcastle’s aerial presence at the back, his sound command of his area is a huge weapon in assisting his colleagues in dealing with set-pieces and dangerous deliveries from all over.
Contributing admirably in possession too, his measured distribution over a range of distances enhances his value.
Accurately pinpointing targets when going long or short, this helps Newcastle find the forwards to increase their chances of winning second balls and to beat the first line of pressure.
Adhering to his manager’s plans, going long often also allows Newcastle to flex their muscles with their fierce counterpressing to regain the ball high and immediately attack from higher up.
By the numbers, upon comparing him to excellent England number one in Jordan Pickford this season using Wyscout data, Pope admirably holds the ascendancy in a host of metrics such as save percentage rate, overall prevented goals, prevented goals per 90, goals conceded p90, clean sheets, exits p90, aerial duels p90 and defensive duels p90.
Underrated and holding his own when dealing with pressure, there’s no denying that he’s proven his worth and adapted smoothly to Howe’s demands since joining in the summer of 2022 for £10 million from Burnley.
Confident, assured and one of the finest keepers in the league, there’s no doubting what an enormous loss Pope is to Howe’s side.
For now, Martin Dubravka is the man tasked with filling the void left by Pope, which will certainly be easier said than done, as the Englishman’s been nothing short of exceptional for the high-flying Magpies, who’ll be eagerly awaiting his return.