Thibaut Courtois is a very good goalkeeper. When one considers his age, it's almost unfair. Already capable enough to unseat Petr Cech at Chelsea, the 22-year-old still has plenty of growing to do. But still, it's somewhat surprising to see him talked about like one of the best players in the league, which is exactly what Gary Neville just did:
Courtois has the talent to become the best goalkeeper in the world in the next 12 to 18 months. I believe he will go past Neuer. The player of the season so far, for me, is not Sergio Agüero but Chelsea’s new No1, who has brought a smile to my face. And not many goalkeepers make me smile.
In the Premier League, the ultimate test of physicality, it was almost a hallelujah moment to see how he dealt with crosses and set-pieces. My stance when a ball travels through the air into the box is that there has to be an excellent reason why it does not end up belonging to the keeper. Watch Courtois’ starting positions when the ball is crossed. As he steps out he has already anticipated where the crosser is aiming it and is standing there already when it arrives. It is a fantastic ability.
I agree and disagree with Neville here. Courtois is utterly, utterly brilliant at controlling his penalty area -- I'd say better than any goalkeeper I've ever watched -- I'm not sure that he's been particularly impressive for us otherwise. There's certainly a lot to improve about the rest of his game before we can talk seriously about the young man surpassing Manuel Neuer or being player of the year.
His distribution, a key point in the goalkeeping skillset, is sometimes erratic, and his shot-stopping has only been good this year rather than truly elite. That said, controlling the area is the best way for goalkeepers to help their defence, and it's not a surprise to see a former fullback valuing that aspect of the game so highly. But let's let Courtois settle into the league and get a long run of clean sheets before we start going completely overboard with praise, eh Gary?