Why Nick Pope is perfect for Newcastle United

Embed from Getty Images

It’s taken longer than most would have expected for Nick Pope to arise attention in the 2022 Summer Transfer Window, but it now appears as though the Burnley cult hero is days away from securing a move to Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United. Back in early June, our readers and contributors picked Pope as the number one player from relegated teams to keep an eye on this summer, and that promise now prepares to come to fruition with the Magpies. Pope would be the perfect player to bring greater stability and solidity to their defensive structures, not to mention between the posts, and at only 10 million pounds, remains an absolute steal. Here is why the Burnley man would be such an astute signing for the Magpies.


Embed from Getty Images

Martin Dubravka has performed admirably during his five season spell in England’s top flight, amassing 127 Premier League appearances thus far. However, now at the age of 33, Newcastle are right in signing a keeper that provides greater mobility and speed in behind a back-line, particularly as Eddie Howe amplifies his pressing intensity and desire. Pope himself is thirty years old, but made himself known as one of the top ‘Sweeper Keepers‘ around last year for his quick thinking off the line in behind an already low-block, sturdy Burnley defense.

By the end of the season, Nick Pope sat top of the table in a league of his own (alongside Alisson), far and away above every other keeper on both the sheer number of defensive actions outside the penalty per 90, and the distance of those actions away from goal. We all know the 30-year-old’s insane cat-like reflexes and exceptional ability to seamlessly stop the impossible, but it’s perhaps underrated just how composed and controlled he is in timing his decisions away from goal. He’s an immaculately quick goalkeeper who expertly times his runs off his line, and few others in the world can compete with his defensive instincts. Martin Dubravka on the other end ranks closer to the David De Gea‘s and Edouard Mendy’s of this world, who prefer to stay rooted to their line and contribute only when the ball comes closer to goal.

Embed from Getty Images

As Eddie Howe expands his style of play to incorporate more forceful pressing and perhaps even a Bournemouth styled high-line to match, the necessity for that to be backed up by a ‘Sweeper Keeper‘ becomes imperative. As we illustrated several times this season, Manchester United’s lack of personnel to style fit and concoction of players that failed to work in tandem (such as their slow centre-back pairing matched with De Gea’s unwillingness to sweep), caused much of their defensive woes this season. Newcastle United already began to find the balance in their team toward the end of the 2021-22 campaign, with a formidable back-line led by their new signing Dan Burn. In Pope, the Magpies now have another tall, robust, bruising force to add to their ranks, contributing to the imposing nature of their back-line as they grow into one of the Premier League’s elite clubs.

Embed from Getty Images

Meanwhile, Martin Dubravka provides a useful back-up to feature in circumstances where the British keeper finds himself unfit, something the Clarets often lacked following their departure of Tom Heaton. Dubravka positively prevented 4.1 goals last season (PSXG +/-), wonderfully matching Nick Pope’s 4.4. Dubravka could have easily continued as the number one for another year, but Nick Pope offers greater shot stopping and sweeping capabilities in tandem, making it an easy upgrade for a minimal price.


Embed from Getty Images

As I wrote about in late April, Nick Pope’s distribution is an underrated facet of his game, and there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t be able to cope under pressure at a top tier, dare I say, possession-based team.

Pope averaged 52.8 yards from open play passes and 65.9 from goal kicks, proving himself to be massively capable of playing long passes over a great distance, and contributing to the attack. Newcastle also prioritize quickness and directness toward the final third, albeit not to the level of Burnley. The likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Kieran Trippier, and Pope’s predecessor Martin Dubravka love to spray long passes forward into the attack, and in Chris Wood they have a natural target man capable of winning aerial duels and holding up the play. They also boast the energetic channel running capabilities of Callum Wilson, and typically ensure at least one player between wing and full-back holds the width on one side to connect with switches of play and diagonal passes across. Nick Pope only provides one more sound distributor to aid in those quests, and one more than capable of improving upon Dubravka’s success of last season.

Embed from Getty Images

In all the discussions of goalkeeping at the international level, Pope’s supposedly ‘poor’ distribution has become completely overstated. He completed 100% of his short passes and 96% of his medium-length passes in 2021-22, proving himself to be more than capable of supporting the build-up. It’s true that Dubravka ranks either equal to Pope or higher in all three categories from short to long, but the Burnley man completed a significantly higher number of passes into the final third in 2021-22 – i.e. pulling off significantly more riskier, cutting-edge passes. It would be unlikely for Pope to attempt the most long passes in the league two seasons in a row, but his impressive distance and distribution will be key to the Magpies this season nevertheless.


Embed from Getty Images

Nick Pope has been one of the Premier League’s standout keepers for years, and has long deserved a move to a bigger club. Now at the age of 30, a big move to a top six club became out of the equation. But the Magpies smartly snapped up his signature, securing the keeper for just 10 million pounds. Pope will immediately improve upon Dubravka’s quality, command, and shot stopping ability, whilst providing a better fit for Eddie Howe’s intended style of play. Best of all – we get to see the magnificence of Pope for at least one more year in the Premier League, plying his trade at the highest level.

So there it is! Why Nick Pope is perfect for Newcastle United. Be sure to check out more of our tactical analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…

-> The myth of Nick Pope’s ‘poor’ distribution
-> David De Gea – Player Analysis
-> Explaining the Sweeper Keeper – Player Role Analysis

Success! You're on the list.


Top 20 Sweeper Keepers – 2022-23

Last season, I broke down positions into twenty-six different roles. The aim of my Role Continuity Evaluation System was to assess performance via what actually matters for a player’s own unique set of tasks. As I recently spoke about in ‘Data-Driven Decision Making & Player Roles’, even two players within the exact same role may…

Finding a goalkeeper for Forge FC

Out of all the CPL clubs, Forge FC have enjoyed the quietest off-season. It feels as though that’s for good reason, having just won the CPL Playoffs for the third time in the league’s four season existence. It might be the sign of a settled squad and players having no inclinations toward seeking pastures new.…

How to organize the defensive line as a goalkeeper

With a wonderful view of the action, goalkeepers must be more than just shot stoppers, and participate actively and vocally in communicating with their mates. They should not be solely responsible for organizing the entire team, but have the ability to do so through the vantage point they have on the field, and often the…

Explaining the Sweeper Keeper – Player Role Analysis

The ‘Sweeper Keeper’ came to deserved acclaim at the 2014 World Cup, when Manuel Neuer showcased his ability to rush out of his goal, and “sweep” in behind Germany’s high-line, almost playing like another centre-back out of possession. Since then, the role of the sweeper keeper has only grown and evolved, becoming a player who…


6 thoughts on “Why Nick Pope is perfect for Newcastle United

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s