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Why Ivan Lucic deserves to start in goal for Bristol City

lucicWhen I heard that Bristol City had completed the signing of Austrian goalkeeper Ivan Lucic two feelings overwhelmed me. One was shock – had my club, Bristol City, really just secured the transfer of one of Bayern Munich’s players? The other was joy. Aged just twenty-one and with good pedigree, having played for his nation’s U19 team, as well as training with the best in Manuel Neuer at the German club, Lucic looked to be a star in the making.

Yet, four months later, Lucic has only played once for the senior team, in a 2-1 EFL cup win away at Fulham. What makes Ivan’s lack of match time more surprising is that he even saved a penalty on his début!

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For us City fans, it is a bit of a shock having three senior goalkeepers: Richard O’Donnell, Lucic, and current number one Frank Fielding. At one stage last season we only had Fielding. When he was ruled out with a severe injury O’Donnell was recruited on an emergency loan from Wigan Athletic, which was soon made permanent.

I recall Wigan fans heavily criticising O’Donnell, labelling him “the worst keeper to ever wear the shirt” and even “a fraud” after a poor performance in the FA Cup versus Bury, however the first signs of his City career were extremely promising. He commanded his box better than Fielding, looked passionate and seemed to be a good shot stopper. Subsequently, O’Donnell continued to be our first choice goalkeeper for the remainder of the 2015/16 season, and the start of this campaign. However, things started to go downhill in early September, when two miscommunications with central defender Aden Flint cost us a win against Rotherham, and O’Donnell let a speculative Barry Bannan shot slip through his hands away at Sheffield Wednesday (his boyhood team). Then, having lost his place in the Championship, he was recalled for the EFL Cup game against Hull; where Lucic was left on the bench in spite of saving a penalty in the last round. City lost 2-1, and O’Donnell could’ve done better on at least one of the goals. Once more, he was named in the starting eleven after Frank Fielding’s groin strain left him unable to play in the Bonfire Night game against Brighton. After just 15 minutes, O’Donnell was at fault for another goal, which changed the momentum of the match, and in my eyes cost us the game. City were the dominant team up until Steve Sidwell’s audacious 50 yard shot beat the goalkeeper, who comically slipped over when staggering back to his goal-line.

Frank Fielding looked a revelation since recovering from his lengthy injury, however there are some fundamentals missing from his game, which in my eyes Lucic holds the answers to. Firstly, Fielding’s distribution is too slow, and too often inaccurate. Lee Johnson said, in a leaked footballing PowerPoint, that he likes his “keeper to play as a sweeper”. With “Mad Frankie” this is never going to be a viable idea. Additionally, Fielding’s small stature makes the team susceptible to conceding from high balls, and set pieces. Admittedly, Frankie looks much improved in this area, but due to his inability to play as a sweeper like fellow shorter goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, I can’t help but feel the 6ft 4in (193cm) Lucic would be a better option in goal.

Due to his time at Bayern Munich, Lucic is sure to be composed when playing out. Bayern’s footballing ideology, particularly under Pep Guardiola, involved a possession-based attacking style, starting out with the goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. So, in spite of not actually playing for the senior Bayern Munich team, Lucic is certain to be accustomed to Johnson’s preferred role of sweeper-keeper. Additionally, standing at 6ft 4in Lucic has the ideal physique for a goalkeeper, and therefore would be sure to command his area easily. Lucic certainly is not the finished article, but equally does suit Johnson’s needs more than our existing keepers, who both lack confidence with the ball at their feet. Thus, with Fielding’s injury potentially ruling him out against Birmingham and O’Donnell seeming error prone, I believe Ivan Lucic simply has to start the game.