In Focus: New Bees stopper Flekken can fill Raya's boots
Mark Flekken could have some big boots to fill at Brentford next season.
The Bees' first-choice keeper David Raya looks set to depart this summer, with the Netherlands international ready to replace him.
Flekken, 29, is the West Londoners' first signing of the transfer window after joining from Freiburg for £11million last week.
We take a look at how well Thomas Frank's newest recruit could slot in between the sticks at the Gtech Community Stadium.
Brentford boss Frank has made it clear that Raya is available this summer, though only for the right price.
He said: "We only have one player for sale, that's the one that's been talked about. That's David [Raya].
"He's £40m. The rest? We are a selling club, but they need to be crazy high amounts if we want anyone to leave. Everyone here is very happy at Brentford."
That price tag may not deter the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea, who are all reportedly keen on the Spaniard.
Frank was also effusive in his praise of Flekken — hailing his qualities with and without the ball.
He said: "We're very happy to have signed Mark [Flekken]. He's a player with a lot of quality who will strengthen our goalkeeper group.
"He's a very good shot-stopper and comfortable with the ball at his feet. His distribution is very impressive."
Brentford will be hoping that the four-cap international has the confidence to slot seamlessly into their starting XI.
Raya produced arguably his most impressive campaign in 2022-23 and played a key role in Brentford's tactical approach.
The Bees relied on his superb sweeping and shot-stopping as their last line of defence.
He averaged 10.08 ball recoveries and 4.05 saves per 90 minutes in the Premier League, with a save percentage of 77.39% — ranking top of the division in all three categories.
Raya's distribution was equally important, attempting more chipped passes (14.18), long passes (25.63) and passes into the opposition half (20.29) per 90 than any other player in the English top flight.
Making his Mark
Flekken will be asked to fit the blueprint set by Raya and Frank clearly believes he is capable of doing so.
In last season's Bundesliga, he averaged a modest 3.21 saves per 90, though that metric can be affected by the number of shots faced.
More significantly, he registered a healthy save percentage of 72.67%.
The Dutchman actually outperformed Raya in terms of ball recoveries, averaging 10.35 per 90.
But he attempted fewer chipped passes (10.85), long passes (21.62) and passes into the opposition half (16.79) per game.
Those numbers are still strong enough to suggest that he is capable of stepping up his output in these areas, however.
Room for improvement
As is to be expected when replacing a key cog in any team, Flekken will need to improve and adapt some areas of his game.
He is clearly proficient at completing both chipped and long passes, with his per 90 average ranking inside the Bundesliga's top four.
Similarly, Raya featured in the Premier League's top two for the same metrics.
But the Barcelona-born custodian completed 7.66 passes into the opposition half per 90 in the Premier League, while his potential replacement managed just 6.32 in the Bundesliga — outside the division's top 40.
If Flekken can improve his accuracy with long-range distribution, Frank and Brentford may find they forget all about their Spanish No1.