When Norwich City signed Tim Krul on the 24th July 2018 the general consensus from the fans was positive – a Dutch international, most well known for being sent on as a substitute by Luis Van Gaal in the 2014 World Cup Quarter Final where he saved two penalties and helped the Dutch through to the semi-finals.
City were able to sign the former Newcastle keeper on a free transfer after his Brighton contract had expired; the ‘free’ being a bonus on top of his quality and experience,
They were forced somewhat into signing a new goalkeeper, even though it was late into pre-season, after Remi Matthews had failed to take the opportunity he was given to replace Angus Gunn; Daniel Farke feeling Matthews’ distribution was not up to the standard he expected from his number one keeper.
Krul was rushed into a pre-season game, away to Luton, and played the full 90 minutes, clearly demonstrating his assured nature with the ball at his feet and the standards he expects of his defence in a game City won top 3-1.
With another friendly under his belt, this time a 1-0 defeat away at Charlton, Krul started the first game of the season against Birmingham where he had little chance for either of their goals as City stole a point, thanks to an Onel Hernandez equaliser.
However, it was in the next game, against newly relegated West Brom, where Krul began to form a ‘liability’ tag, after hauling down Dwight Gayle to give West Brom a penalty and then palming Jay Rodriguez’s long shot into his own net. City went on to lose a seven-goal thriller 4-3.
It was easy to forget at that time that Krul had suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament whilst playing for the Netherlands on an artificial pitch in Kazakhstan in 2015. This disrupted his career massively, being loaned out by Newcastle to, first to Ajax where he didn’t play and then to AZ Alkmaar, before being transferred to Brighton. He made just 17 appearances in two seasons.
Consistency is key for a goalkeeper and with hindsight, it was always going to take Krul time to get back to his best, as shown again when he poorly shovelled a shot from former Norwich Loanee Kyle Naughton into (now Manchester United’s) Dan James’ path for his first league goal for Swansea.
Krul did show flashes of his best form, usually away from home and in particular away to Brentford where he made a spectacular point-blank save from Neal Maupay as Norwich battled to a 1-1 draw.
Back-to-back home wins to Swansea and Hull were where Krul was again questioned with several close shaves against the rapid James and then was at fault for Hull’s first goal where he was too casual playing out from the back, ending with a Marc Pugh finish in the back of the Dutchman’s net.
Krul however, again away from home, showed his importance in a 1-1 draw away to Wigan where Norwich played poorly, but he won then a crucial save from Leon Clarke with just minutes to spare.
City finished the season as champions with Krul playing every minute of the 46-game season but there were question marks defensively about a team who had conceded 57 goals – more than 16th placed Stoke City and just one less than 17th place Birmingham City.
In truth, the Canaries’ forward line were so good, scoring 93 goals in the league and 100 in all competitions, it left just the defence and goalkeeper to be the scapegoats when they didn’t win. As alluded to earlier, Krul made the majority of his errors at home in front of over 22,000 City fans and the majority of his brilliant performances away, in front of around 3,000 City fans, so the reputation he had built in some quarters as Norwich’s weak link could be adjudged as slightly harsh.
However, leading up to the Premier League season, I was one fan calling for a new goalkeeper; not necessarily to replace Krul but to give him some healthy competition. Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke did indeed do this in the shape of Schalke legend and club captain Ralph Farhmann, who was playing in the Champions League while City were playing their way out of the Championship.
The announcement of the big German coming on loan was just two days after Krul had agreed a new three-year deal at Norwich, stating he had unfinished business in the Premier League. With the arrival of Fahrmann, Krul had even more motivation to prove he was worthy of the number 1 jersey.
After a shaky pre-season for Fahrmann, including poor distribution and questionable 1-on-1s in a humbling 4-1 defeat at home to Atalanta, Krul got the call to start in City’s first game against European Champions, Liverpool.
Despite conceding four goals, Krul had a good game, tipping Jordan Henderson’s drive onto the crossbar and stopping the team currently top of the league from scoring in the second half.
The following game against Newcastle, Krul had precious little to do in a 3-1 win in which Teemu Pukki stole the headlines with a wonderfully taken hat-trick.
Tim then had good performances against Chelsea, West Ham and Norwich’s monumental effort in beating reigning champions Manchester City with an injury-ravaged squad. The importance of Krul was then highlighted as he injured himself in the next game during Burnley but played on for the rest of the 2-0 defeat.
In the following two games, Fahrmann started the game but was clearly carrying a knock before going off after Palace opened the lead from the penalty spot. Third choice Michael McGovern played the rest of the game before starting in the mauling at home to Aston Villa. McGovern wasn’t woeful, making a cracking penalty save and then second save from Wesley, but Krul’s authority in terms of his booming voice and his distribution unsettled the back four.
He returned and looked assured as City picked up their first clean sheet of the season against Bournemouth and in the defeat to Manchester United produced a magnificent point-blank save to deny Anthony Martial and then made those two penalty saves, from Marcus Rashford and Martial.
In City’s away game at Everton, the Dutchman claimed every cross with ease and showed great awareness, stopping Yerry Mina’s dangerous through ball to Theo Walcott and rolling it to Christoph Zimmermann, which ultimately led to Todd Cantwell’s opening strike in that brilliantly resolute 2-0 win.
Against Arsenal, Tim made another brilliant penalty save which unfortunately was forced to be retaken (an article for another day) but again showed great calmness during the game.
In the defeat at Southampton, he made a number of saves to stop the game running away from City, with his team-mates picking up in the second half and, in the end, a little unlucky not to earn a point.
So, while Krul started his City career in a rusty fashion, towards the back end of last season he improved his performance level and his experience and voice was vital to a young backline who had not been in that position before.
Thanks to the signing of Fahrmann, Krul has upped his game to show he is more than worthy of being at this level, which has been key with him making the third-highest amount of saves in the league.
I know there will be a Finnish legend unhappy with this claim but I believe Tim Krul, for his turnaround in the last 18 months and the fact he has been Norwich’s most consistent performer this season, is in pole position for the Barry Butler trophy.