It would be difficult to pinpoint many areas for FC Barcelona to improve in 2015 2016. The team was nearly unstoppable throughout the 2014 2015 season, winning a treble of major trophies, scoring 110 goals in the Spanish La Liga, and earning widespread praise as the best football club in Europe. If there's been a question asked about the team, though, it's who should be the Barcelona first choice goalkeeper? - and whether the 2015 2016 season will see a shift in which soccer player we see wearing the Barcelona goalkeeper shirt.
In May, the New York Times published a piece titled "Barcelona's Intriguing Tale of Two Goalkeepers." The article discussed the club's decision to play Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo in La Liga matches and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.
Claudio Bravo: The Regular Season Stalwart
Of course, both keepers acquitted themselves well in their respective roles. Bravo wowed audiences in the La Liga, playing every minute in all but one of Barca's regular season league fixtures. (Number three goalkeeper, Jordi Massip, covered for him in a May 23rd fixture against Deportivo la Coruna.) All told, Bravo kept 23 clean sheets throughout the season (nine more than any goalkeeper in the La Liga) and only allowed 19 goals overall. (In total Barcelona's "goals against" tally was 21, but two of those goals were scored against Massip in the Deportivo match.)
Looking at those statistics, it's difficult to act like Bravo wasn't the right choice to serve as Barca's go-to goalkeeper in the league. Even with Massip's one fixture considered, Barcelona still allowed eight fewer goals in the 2014 2015 La Liga campaign than the league's second best defensive football team, Atletico Madrid.
In fact, it was arguably Bravo's strong performance as keeper that allowed Barca to edge out Real Madrid for the top spot on the 2014 2015 table. Real actually scored eight more goals than Barca did throughout the league season, and won the same number of games. But Real's "goals against" number was 38, and Madrid keeper Iker Casillas only managed 12 clean sheets. As a result, the Vikings lost six games-two more than Barcelona, and enough to cost them the title.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: The Ace in the Cup
But while you can at least in part credit Claudio Bravo with Barca's 2014 2015 La Liga title, the kudos for the other two parts of the team's soccer treble-the Champions League and the Copa del Rey-belong to German keeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Initially, the plan was for the younger and more athletic ter Stegen to be the first choice goalkeeper, with the older and more experienced Bravo taking the backup position. (Ter Stegen is 23, while Bravo is 32.) Both players arrived at Camp Nou last summer, after longtime Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes left the soccer club for Manchester United.
But ter Stegen suffered a back injury in the offseason last year, and Barcelona manager Luis Enrique was forced to change things around. Even when ter Stegen was back to full health, Bravo remained the football club's number one keeper in the domestic league, and ter Stegen was first choice in cup and continental play.
Obviously, he did well. Barcelona won both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey-something that fans at the football club haven't seen since the 2008 2009 season. His average wasn't as spotless as what Bravo managed in the domestic league-in the UCL, for instance, ter Stegen tallied six clean sheets in 13 matches-but it was good enough to help Barca win both trophies.
From the sounds of it, though, ter Stegen is not content being Barcelona's second choice. While the goalkeeper arrangement worked perfectly for the club during the 2014 2015 season, ter Stegen has told the press that he wanted to be the "undisputed number one," and that he was finding it "difficult to accept" his position on the bench.
Bottom line, Barcelona would do well to keep both keepers in the rotation in 2015 2016, but it might be a good idea for the soccer club to either give ter Stegen the domestic league and Bravo the cups, or to at least aim for an even split of matches between the two. Bravo was brilliant in 2014 2015, but he's nearing the twilight of his career. Ter Stegen, meanwhile, is young enough to be an asset at Camp Nou for a decade Barca can't risk alienating him.
Who do you think should be Barca's first choice goalkeeper next season? Let us know on social media (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), or pick up a Barcelona goalkeeper shirt 2015 2016 from our online store to celebrate these two world class players!