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Dubravka proves winter bargain for Newcastle United

Over $600 million dollars were spent by English Premier League clubs during the winter transfer window. Signing players in January has always proven to be tricky.

Even more true in an era of ridiculous transfer fees.

The risks of deals during this period are well known! Andres D’Alessandro was the catalyst for Harry Redknapp and Portsmouth’s remarkable survival in 2006. D’Allessandro became an inspiring deadline day signing.

Afonso Alves, however, flopped pretty badly after signing for Middlesbrough 24 months later.

For every Luis Suarez, there’s an Andy Carroll

The financial rewards for staying in the English Premier League are becoming more extravagant. This has forced clubs roaming at the lower end of the table to make expensive signings.

Everton spent $67 million on two attacking players, Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun. Southampton broke their transfer record to try and buy goals in the form of Guido Carrillo.

What has Newcastle done?

Mike Ashley’s popularity keeps on plummeting.

Rafa Benitez has publicly struggled to compete at Newcastle but has worked his magic in the short term. In spite of this, some funds were released and three players were signed in January on loan. The Brazilian Kenedy joined the club from Chelsea and was desperate to prove himself during his loan spell. Islam Slimani was an astute signing from Leicester and Martin Dubravka from Sparta Prague.

Slimani has contributed to a grand total of 15 minutes thus far whereas Kenedy has provided the drive and creativity on the wing that the Magpies were desperate for in attacking areas.

However, it is the new man between the post that has raised eyebrows with his excellent distribution and reflexes. With just 10 international caps to his name, the Slovak Dubravka is hardly a household name. Benitez was more than willing to throw him in the trenches as his patience with Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot wore out.

A fantastic start!

His first match came against a battle tested Manchester United. Newcastle held on for a 1-0 victory in a jubilant St James’ Park. He received man-of-the-match for his performance. A further two clean sheets in the next five games has made him an instant hero.

His shot-stopping skills are not the most impressive attributes in his repertoire.

Rob Elliot, who has started 16 Premier League games, averages over ten long balls per game. Dubravka’s average is just six (albeit from a smaller sample). His passing range and confidence on the ball are evident. The defenders in front of him, led by the skipper Jamaal Lascelles, have also raised their game since his arrival.

Dubravka is helping to modernize the Magpies’ defensive line. This may be a bold statement to make so early in his Newcastle career. However, I believe this Sunday’s match against Arsenal will further confirm this as Mesut Ozil and Co. come to town.

Mo Salah was certainly the best summer signing but Dubravka has become the finest piece of business in the winter window.

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