Steve Mandanda arrived at the club’s training ground for the first time yesterday, prompting a sense of mild hysteria from Palace fans across social media.
Having been part of the French squad which made it all the way to the final of Euro 2016, only to be eventually beaten by surprise package Portugal, both Mandanda and Yohan Cabaye were given an extended leave of absence by Alan Pardew and his coaching staff, giving them a little under two weeks to be deemed match fit for the opening game of the Premier League season at home to West Brom.
Whilst the training goalkeepers undertake differs hugely from that of outfield players, the above video shows the former Marseille stopper to be incredibly agile for a man of his build. In an era when most keepers seem to be tall and thin, Mandanda’s frame goes against convention, looking more akin to that of a professional boxer. On this evidence alone, it’s fair to suggest that opposition strikers won’t necessarily come off best when challenging the big man for high balls in the box over the next nine months.
With just one first-team pre-season friendly left to play, at home to Valencia this coming Saturday, it looks almost certain that both Mandanda and Cabaye will have starring roles in front of the Selhurst Park crowd, but questions still remain over whether or not the Frenchman will be chosen by Alan Pardew to occupy the space in between the sticks for the visit of Tony Pulis’ Baggies in nine days time, given the fact that he is still likely to be adjusting to life in South London.
Indeed, the 31-year-old is still learning the basics of the English language; a factor that could have some rather far-reaching drawbacks for a goalkeeper, should he be thrown into the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Premier League after little more than a week of getting to know his new teammates.
I don’t think anyone is in doubt over Mandanda’s long-term role as the club’s undisputed status as our number one as things stand, with the above video providing proof of his attributes to flourish in England, but the pace with which Alan Pardew chooses to acclimatise his latest signing remains unknown.