One on One
It’s often referred to as the ‘Friendly Derby’ but we’ve seen the physios called into action too often and red cards flashed with a frequency that suggest civility is at a minimum. In some – generally Blue – quarters it’s painted as a meeting of Merseyside’s ‘haves and the have nots’. There’s no doubt that the balance sheets of both clubs are in vastly different states of health, but at least in the goalkeeping ranks they can both consider themselves to relatively well off.
Tim Howard has the physical attributes of an excellent goalkeeper. The speed of his reflexes have to be considered amongst the fastest in the Premier League. The sheer number of amazing point-blank saves he has managed down through the years is down to more than luck and optimistically sticking out a limb. His agility is also supreme and he’s capable of pulling off some amazing saves. The fact that he has reestablished himself as one of the Premier League’s most consistent performers after being unceremoniously dumped out of Old Trafford shows a commendable attitude and determination. He has started the season extremely well and with Everton likely to be involved in a multitude of tight contests, he will be as important as ever to David Moyes.
The one area of his game that I think limited his progress and probably ultimately cost him his Old Trafford career was his concentration. Everyone is allowed make a mistake, but there is the lingering suspicion is they happen a little too often. In recent seasons haven’t exactly been prolific on the goalscoring front and as such his errors probably cost his team more points than they would elsewhere. When the mistakes do happen, they generally manifest themselves as handling errors. I don’t think his handling is necessarily weak, but when Howard’s mind does start to wander, he’s prone to fumbling a shot or spilling a straightforward cross. Still though, having him is a huge positive for the Toffees and being an ever-present for each of Everton’s last three Premier League seasons is a sign of how highly he’s rated.
Pepe Reina is one of the best goalkeepers in not only the league, but the world. I’ve written about his combination of agility, bravery, command and distribution countless times in the past. He is simply one of the best. Sadly for Kenny Dalglish and Reds fans, unless Liverpool start contending for major honours, he may be tempted by the sirens trying to lure him away from Anfield.
Pepe makes mistakes. Sometimes shocking mistakes. What’s remarkable about him is his ability to put them behind him instantaneously and continue to operate at a high level. For all his brilliance, he hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks. The defence in front of him has creaked and done him little favours. It’s at times like this I sometimes feel Reina tries too hard to compensate for the short-comings of his team-mates. Given his notoriously competitive nature, he seems to think he is the starting point for improvement and he strains every fibre of his body to generate the turnaround. I think a lot of the time, his errors stem from almost trying too hard to influence the game and his aggressive style of play leads to blips in his concentration. You’d still have him in your team every single time however and his form will be crucial in deciding how close Liverpool get to a return to the promised land of Champions League football.
It’s Reina over Howard for me, but it’s not by much, especially if the American continues his recent form.