Palace have made their second signing of the summer in the shape of France No.2 Steve Mandanda. But what can Eagles fans expect from the highly rated Marseille keeper and how will he fit it We are French football expert Adam White to explain all...
Although a big money move for Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi may have turned out to be beyond the reach of Steve Parish, Crystal Palace have managed to acquire the services of another of the Stade Velodrome’s top performers, a signing that could prove to be even more beneficial for Alan Pardew’s plans and at just a fraction of the cost: goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda.
Despite some solid displays for Wales in France this summer, Wayne Hennesey’s issues with fluctuating form at club level and some high profile mistakes since the turn of the year were well documented during the previous Premier League campaign. A more consistent and commanding goalkeeper would undoubtedly improve the side looking ahead to the 16/17 season and Frenchman Steve Mandanda more than fits the bill.
At less than £2million, the value offered here should not be underestimated. Mandanda is one of the top three keepers in Ligue 1 and would be France’s undisputed number 1, if it weren’t for Hugo Lloris. The four time Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year (a record that includes the last two seasons) has been OM’s first choice since joining the club in 2007, captaining the side since 2010, and at 31 is very much in his prime and will be for duration of his three year contract with Palace.
Think we're in safe hands.https://t.co/RDpJgicxZI— Five Year Plan (@FYPFanzine) July 1, 2016
Mandanda has been kept busy over the last 12 months during Marseille’s chaotic 15/16 season. Marcelo Bielsa resigning after one game, repeated crowd trouble and Michel’s failure to manufacture a home win in over seven months cost him his job lead to an unacceptable 13th place finish and both ends of the ground being closed for certain home fixtures. Nevertheless Mandanda (along with Lass Diarra and Michy Batshuayi) continued to shine. With 3 games to go they were just 5 points clear of the drop and although relegation was never likely, without Mandanda’s superb form the situation could have been far worse.
Pundit’s often quantify a goalkeeper’s usefulness to a team in the supposed ‘number of points they are worth over the course if the season’ and despite this now cliched expression being somewhat abstract, Mandanda consistently kept his side in games where they might have otherwise been brushed aside over the course of the league campaign in France. Strings of superb stops in away draws with Lorient in March and Lyon January being standout examples of this.
‘The Phenomenon’, as Mandanda is sometimes referred to, is in a different league to Hennessey. He is far more consistent, makes very few mistakes and is often at his best when under pressure. Although the former Le Harve man has repeatedly proved in recent months he is capable of spectacular world class saves, (one miraculous fingertip stop to claw a Vincent Pajot header round the post against St Etienne stands out) Mandanda’s biggest assets from Palace’s point of view will be his leadership, imperious presence and his experience on the pitch and in the dressing room.
Adept at organising his defence, commanding his area on crosses (something Hennessey could improve on) while being proactive in distribution, Mandanda is very much suited to frantic pace of the Premier League. On the flipside Mandanda has a slight tendency to be weak at his near post while occasionally his positioning when on his line can be a little less than perfect but these are minor issues.
In Steve Mandanda, Palace are getting a strong, commanding, consistent keeper, who is capable of world class performances and acrobatic saves, a clear improvement on their current crop of custodians, an international class goalkeeper. Despite the relatively under the radar feel of this move, it could prove to be the biggest and most important signing - Cabaye included - since Palace’s return to the Premier League and in a division where teams are edging closer and closer together in terms of quality with the money at the disposal of all 20 teams, Mandanda’s arrival at Selhurst Park could be a key factor in Palace’s final league placing when May rolls around.