1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Shay Given, Brad Guzan, Andy Marshall, Elliot Parish
Overview: Replacing Brad Friedel is no easy task, but Villa have traded upwards with the acquisition of Shay Given. When he first lost his place to Joe Hart, I would have considered him one of the finest goalkeepers in the world, but for whatever reason – politics I suspect – Roberto Mancini opted for the young English man over the considerable experience of Given. It’s a decision that has worked out well, but a couple of times during the last season the Irish goalie deserved to be reinstated and was left sitting on the bench. From his outings in cup competitions and for Ireland, Given doesn’t look to have suddenly lost his ability. He has on occasion looked rusty, but the fundamentals – the reactions, the agility, the handling – remain solid and it’s only a matter of time before he regains his match sharpness. The main concern is hit recent record with injuries. By and large, Given has been relatively lucky with injuries throughout his career, but in the last couple of years, he’s picked up a couple of serious ones. Once the injuries start to creep in, it’s hard to shake them off. We’re not even talking recurrences of previous problems. It’s a bizarre phenomenon in elite sport by which once someone suffers a major injury to one part of the body, the frequency of other non-related injuries seems to increase. Hopefully Given can finish out the last few years of his career avoiding lengthy spells on the sidelines, but sadly it’s a concern. In reserve, Alex McLeish can call upon the services of Brad Guzan. I must admit, I assumed the American would be given his chance to replace his compatriot when Friedel moved to White Hart Lane, but he doesn’t seem to be considered a viable long-term option. Martin O’Neill didn’t seem to rate him and he spent some of last season on loan at Hull. He’s young enough to make it in the Premier League, but he needs to see more first team action and soon. Beyond the first two, the experienced Andy Marshall can do a job in an emergency, but hopefully won’t be required for too many games and Elliot Parish is likely to spend the season on loan somewhere.
Worst case scenario: With age catching up on him, Given’s injury woes won’t go away and he misses large parts of the season. Guzan steps in, but makes a couple of errors. With no real alternatives, Villa concede a few costly goals that their revamped attack struggles to compensate for and the relegation fears of last season resurface under the leadership of Alex McLeish.
Most likely outcome: Given may initially look rusty on his return to regular Premier League, but I fully expect him to return to something approaching his best. Even at his best, he was capable of making the odd mistake, but overall he’s a major positive for the team.