Begovic retains his focus despite transfer speculation
ASMIR Begovic insists stories about his impending departure are not affecting his game – and it's difficult to argue after an eighth clean sheet of the season.
Begovic awoke before Saturday's goalless draw at Villa Park to stories – however accurate – of a bid coming in from Manchester United.
But he laughed it all off afterwards by declaring: "When you are linked to clubs like that it's not tiresome, it's a compliment.
"I don't know anything about it myself, I'm just making sure it doesn't affect my own game."
Begovic was being mocked as he spoke by passing colleagues accusing the media of making too many beelines for the popular Bosnian of late.
But it's difficult to ignore the record of a goalkeeper who took top billing in the league after the weekend programme.
It's now just 12 goals conceded in 16 league fixtures, including just three in the last eight, to leave him observing modestly: "It's what we work for and it's important we get the clean sheets.
"The record we have is amazing and it's a credit to all the guys in front of me."
Such credit was due once more on Saturday as Stoke's rock-solid defence blocked what few threats descended on Begovic at Villa Park.
"We stuck at it again," he concurred, "and it's credit to the main group that even though we weren't at our best going forward and at keeping the ball, we managed to get a clean sheet and a point away from home.
"Villa are no mugs. They are a young, energetic team and we cannot take a point away from home for granted.
"They had a couple of spells of pressure and I had to make a couple of saves here and there, but nothing crazy and we kept them at bay."
He was particularly grateful for the presence of Ryan Shawcross on one occasion in the first half after seeing his skipper block a goalward prod from Christian Benteke.
"That's what Ryan does for us," Begovic continued. "He's been immense all season for us, as has Robert Huth.
"That's the standard they set and it's a joy playing with them. They kept Benteke quiet and did excellently."
Begovic included Ryan Shotton in his praise of those in front of him, but his day was cut short near the end after a second yellow card for an innocent-looking collision in the dying embers of the game.
"I'm not sure if the sending off was deserved," said Begovic. "But Ryan has played a big part in getting us a point and we will remember him for that.
"He's done very well and he'll be a miss for us, but no matter who comes in, they'll do a good job I'm sure."