The Enigma That Is Kevin Trapp

During Paris Saint-Germain’s dominating 4-1 win over Stade de Reims last Saturday was yet another mistake from Kevin Trapp that led to a goal. It’s just one of many for the Germany international since arriving at the Parc des Princes but despite the unfortunate reoccurring theme, supporters don’t seem to be that bothered by the errors and no longer complain as much as they did at the beginning of the season. The 25-year-old’s ability to pull off world class saves at crucial times seems to erase the memory of his bad performances.

So why is it the young goalkeeper is forgiven for leaking unbelievably soft goals at times when veteran Salvatore Sirigu looks on from the bench? That’s the enigma of Kevin Trapp.

Signed last summer as a replacement for Sirigu as first choice keeper due to the Italian’s own inconsistencies the previous season, many expected the Italy international to be replaced by an elite goalkeeper like Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris, who had been repeatedly linked to the club in the past. So it came as a bit of a surprise when PSG made the announcement that a relatively unknown Trapp was moving from Eintracht Frankfurt to the French capital.

Trapp got off to a promising start to the season with four consecutive clean sheets and some incredible saves as well—the match-winning save against Montpellier comes to mind. He showed confidence in his box, skill with the ball at his feet, and good aerial ability, all of which Sirigu lacked. Most fans who had seen him as a rather untested entity began to warm to the idea that the Germany international might be miles ahead of Sirigu, with some (myself included) even going as far as to think PSG had found the next Manuel Neuer.

However, Trapp’s early season parade came to an end when he committed two errors in a single match against Bordeaux, which ultimately ended 2-2. The lapse in concentration, and the lack of confidence that followed, led to more errors by the young goalkeeper and with Sirigu looking on from the bench (often captured by television cameras), the call for the Italian’s return to the starting XI grew louder.

With pressure mounting on Blanc to replace the keeper, Trapp stepped up his game. In early October, his performance alone secured a 2-1 victory for Paris Saint-Germain against their bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille. In the 54th minute, Serge Aurier gave away a penalty and Marseille looked to be on their way to leveling the match at 2-2. With Rihanna watching from the stands, Trapp made a spectacular save and got a date for after the match at the same time. He followed the Classique with yet another MOTM performance in the first game against Real Madrid in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. The match ended in a scoreless draw but much of the credit went to Trapp for keeping Madrid’s vaunted attack off the scoresheet. And finally, in late October against AS Saint-Etienne, Trapp was sensational once again in a 4-1 win, which led to him being voted player of the month by PSG fans on the official club website.

Just when supporters hoped the German had put the errors behind him, he went on to commit his most detrimental howler of the season in the away leg against Real Madrid. Trapp failed to clear his lines and left an empty net for Madrid. The goal, the only one allowed by PSG in the group stage of the Champions League, ended the team’s hopes of finishing above the Spanish giants in the group.

Trapp’s next howler came from a somewhat harmless shot from a long way out versus Olympique Lyonnais on December 13, where he somehow managed to turn the ball into his own net—although it didn’t prove to be a costly lapse in concentration as PSG won the game 5-1. Trapp has blamed the errors on the fact that he isn’t used to the lack of action for long periods of games and you can somewhat understand his perspective. You would think though that by this point in the season he would be sharper during matches but his mistake in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Stade de Reims doesn’t suggest that.

The thing that stands out though about Trapp is, as former PSG goalkeeper Bernard Lama rightly remarked via L’Equipe, “In the end, there’s only been one match where he’s lost it for his team–against Real Madrid. But how many times has he saved them? For me, there’s no longer any debate.” This coming after yet another impressive Man of the Match outing versus Chelsea F.C. in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie. Noteworthy is the fact that he’s not conceded any of the penalties he’s been faced with this season. He has kept 14 clean sheets in 26 Ligue 1 games and was named in the Champions League team of the group stages. Supporters hope he continues to bring his unquestionable ability to the forefront in the Champions League as the team looks to win the competition for the first time in club history.

The German has no competition in the team and must remain the first choice as Paris enter the business end of the Champions League. Despite his lapses, Sirigu would not be an upgrade at this point. The Italian, despite not making obvious errors leading to goals, was hardly capable of pulling off the spectacular like Trapp (the save against Diego Costa last week comes to mind). Sirigu does not exude the confidence that Trapp does and his inability to play with the ball at his feet does not fit with PSG’s possession style of play.

Trapp on the other hand, while prone to mistakes, still shows confidence and seems to be able to shake off even the most horrendous of errors and pull off solid performances as we saw in the loss to Real Madrid. This is clearly down to his huge mental strength, which is probably the reason he’s getting called up by Germany as second choice behind Neuer, which is impressive considering Germany’s depth in the goalkeeper position with the likes of Marc-André ter Stegen, Timo Horn, and Bernd Leno available for selection. He has already been included in the preliminary squad for the Euro 2016.

It is this undeniable talent in spite of the errors that makes him undroppable at PSG. His boredom excuse might be legitimate and one that time should fix. However, with on loan goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in stunning form at Villarreal, he might need to sort his problems out as quickly as possible if he hopes to retain his starting spot next season. For now though, Trapp is PSG’s first choice keeper and with the league essentially won, let’s hope he can focus all of his attention on Chelsea away in just a couple weeks.

Tags Champions League Kevin Trapp Laurent Blanc Ligue 1 Salvatore Sirigu
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