Premier League GK Round-up: Cause For Concern At Man City?

Joe Hart

A whistle stop tour of Saturday’s Premier League matches and some brief and debatable observations on some of the major goalkeeping talking points.

Wayne Hennessey
Quintessential sublime to ridiculous stuff from the Welshman at City. A couple of top drawer saves in the 1st half had Wovles fans dreaming of an unlikely point, but slowness saw him hand them a goal. He’s a very capable goalkeeper, but maybe indecision undermines his development?

Joe Hart
I’ve expressed concern about Hart’s concentration in the past and the issue reared it’s unfocussed head again. I rate Hart as one of the world’s best and it’s precisely because I rate him so highly that I find moments like this so surprising. His handling is good enough to deal with the tame shot that led to the Wovles goal so I can only think he let his mind wander again. Last Sunday, his effort to get to Fletcher’s shot at Old Trafford was also weak. City’s goalscoring bandwagon rolls on, but his team will need Hart to better when called upon in tighter games as the season progresses.

Petr Cech
Nowhere near his best versus Arsenal. Could have done better for 3 of the Gunners’ goals. Strange after an important cameo in the Carling Cup midweek. The ability remains, but maybe we’ll have to get used to a less consistent and more injury-prone Cech in future.

Wojciech Szczesny
As he acknowledged in a later tweet, I don’t know how he stayed on the pitch. One commentator correctly pointed out, he may have not been the last defender, but he was the only goalkeeper and Chelsea would surely have scored. Terrible refereeing. Still though, he’s playing superb football at the moment.

Bolton have goalkeeping problems
Jussi was poor when he let Joe Allen’s shot by him. It’s sadly not a once-off. My theory is he has lost his athleticism and his superb reflexes aren’t now enough to compensate. Bogdan doesn’t look ready for long term Premier League duty and with Bolton on course for a season of scrapping, under-performing goalkeepers can be the difference between relegation and survival. Owen Coyle needs to take action.

Westwood makes his Premier League debut
Sunderland lost Mignolet to a broken nose, but they’ve a more than capable deputy in Westwood who made one excellent save. He’ll get his chance for at least a couple of games. With the Belgian not always convincing, it’s a great chance to establish himself as first choice.

John Ruddy
Sadly, he’s always been capable of that sort of concentration based mistake. He has however been excellent so far for Norwich and his bouncing back will be crucial for Paul Lambert’s team.

Agree, disagree or have observations of your own? Get the debate started in the comments section.

Premier League: Manchester United Need To Be Patient With De Gea

David De Gea

On the spectrum of starts, it’s not an absolute disaster. It is however far closer to the catastrophic end of the scale than it is to the successful end. It hasn’t cost silverware or points, but two games into his Manchester United career, David De Gea is on the ropes. And what’s probably more disconcerting for fans hoping to see the youngster succeed is the pace at which he has got to experience the sharp pens of the savage British press.

I wrote some time ago that my biggest fear about David De Gea being a success at Manchester United has little to do with his ability, it was more to do with the increased pressure and scrutiny that comes with being first choice at Old Trafford. He has the personality to handle it, but already the media have been quick to turn on him with the most ruthless of them crossing the line from warranted to criticism to ill-formed sneering mockery. Sean Custis, chief football writer with The Sun moronically wrote:

“The only thing that might stop this exciting, youthful United from retaining their title is new keeper David De Gea. Even his initials DDG look like a text form of DODGY and his early season howlers are causing consternation for Reds fans.”

Of course it wasn’t the finest moment in the history of goalkeeping, but such boorish ignorance is at best unhelpful and at worst the kind of brutality that has virtually destroyed the progress of countless young England goalkeepers in recent seasons. Plus it’s plainly wrong. As pleasing on the eye as some of the football from “this exciting, youthful United team” was, they failed to carve out many clear-cut chances in the second half and with the wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, that is worthy of almost as much examination as De Gea’s goalkeeping.

Sadly it wasn’t an isolated incident with many other pundits prepared to jump on the bandwagon of ill-formed conclusion and declare De Gea’s United career over before it has got the chance to get going. Attempts to pin the blame on him for City’s first goal in the Community Shield highlight the premeditated witch-hunt I believe some members of the press are on. The reason United conceded that goal was down to the fact it was superb deadball delivery and a good header from Joleon Lescott. De Gea may have made the briefest of motions forward, but he was hardly flapping at the cross or causing chaos for his defenders and his final position was pretty much where a keeper should in such a situation. A certain amount of such negative comment about his time in England so far is merited, but the relish with which Custis and certain others grasped the opportunity to deride another human being was an appalling reflection of the standards of journalism and punditry in Britain.

Thankfully, more constructive explanations have abounded in the aftermath of the West Brom game also. The excellent Shaka Hislop (@ShakaHislop) suggested that his problems are related to poor footwork and could be coached out of him by Eric Steele. The equally excellent Adie Creamer (@gkaade) , goalkeeping coach at the Watford FC academy put forward a theory that leaned more towards the mental aspect of the game and the young Spaniard’s ability to handle the overall pressure that comes from the Premier League. I can see some merit in both. At the moment, De Gea’s footwork seems a touch uncertain – as is much of the rest of his game – but from watching his development at Atletico Madrid, I know under normal circumstances his footwork isn’t bad and is actually one of his virtues. Something is happening that is affecting the very fundamentals of his game and I would say his problems are almost entirely psychological rather than technical.

What’s even more frustrating is that in between mistakes his talent is obvious. His reactions are solid and his handling sound, but he just isn’t at the races at other times. My hypothesis – for what it’s worth – is that De Gea is over-thinking at present. There has undoubtedly been a certain slowness to his game so far. Difficultly adapting to the pace of the British game may partially explain it, but I think it’s more than that. I suspect when the ball looks to be coming his direction at the moment, for a split second, either consciously or in his subconscious, De Gea thinks ‘I have to save this’. It’s a result of the pressure that comes with playing for such a huge club and the fact he has left his comfort zone by leaving Atletico. He doesn’t feel comfortable as yet and his quest to compensate leads only exacerbates the problem. It only takes a millisecond, but whilst De Gea takes this millisecond, he’s no closer to making a save, but the ball’s arrival is imminent. In the Community Shield, he seemed to be ponderous for the Dzeko goal and by the time he committed to a dive, he couldn’t adjust for the movement and dip in what was an otherwise straightforward shot. Against West Brom, Shane Long hit a shot that he would gobble up 99.99% of the time away from the intensity of a Manchester United match. At the risk of sounding like a Danielle Steele, I would equate it to breathing. Breathing is instinct to us all and for goalkeepers, throwing whatever part of your anatomy will do the job in the path of the ball feels natural almost to the point of being innate. As fanciful as the comparison is, when you start to think about your breathing or inhaling and exhaling correctly, it starts to feel somewhat laboured and far from the automated process it should be. When De Gea doesn’t have that moment to think and relies on his instinct, there doesn’t seem to be a problem as we saw with his fantastic save moments before the calamity.

As for Fergie, he may be tempted to turn to Anders Lindegaard. The Dane showed some good form in pre-season and has reportedly been making noises about not being happy with regards to his place in the pecking order. Games like Sunday only lend weight to his claims and it’s only natural that Fergie might want to give him a run out. I stand by my previous assertions that De Gea is good enough to succeed at Old Trafford, but equally the press have disproportionate power when it comes to hammering the nails into his coffin. That’s part of the deal when it comes to being Manchester United’s number 1 and he now has very little margin for error.

A Bad Few Days For Juan Carrizo

It’s not been a good week or so for River Plate goalkeeper, Juan Carrizo. The former Lazio, Zaragoza keeper and current Argentine benchwarmer had a total brainfreeze in the Superclasico versus local rivals Boca Juniors last week and followed it with a marginally less embarrassing error against San Lorenzo last weekend

Carrizo’s inexplicable mistake from the Superclasico

Slightly less of a howler v San Lorenzo (45 seconds in)

I’ve really never seen anything like the first one. I can’t imagine what he was trying to do and I’d say he have a hard time explaining what was going on in his head. The second one is just one of those things – it happens from time to time. It’s just a shame for Carrizo it happened so soon after the first one.

Ex. Man Utd Keeper, Roberto Has A Nightmare Moment

On a night when the PFA celebrate footballing excellence throughout the season – or roughly three weeks in the case of Gareth Bale – it seems only fitting that the Ministry Of Glove do the exact opposite and salute a moment of sheer calamity. I make it a point of not ridiculing any person brave enough to be a goalkeeper for any mistakes that might occur during the course of the bizzare collection of tasks required of the custodian, but it was impossible not to have a small chuckle at this.

If you’ve got a very precise memory, you may remember Ricardo from a brief spell at Manchester United. It was so brief in fact that anyone who has ever bought an overpriced replica jersey has spent significantly more time in a United shirt than he did. Now approaching the age of 40, he remains first choice for Osasuna in La Liga – although that may change after this. With the score at 1-1 with a couple of minutes to go in one of the lesser known, but equally passionate Basque derbies, he did this – handling a goal and all three points to Athletic Bilbao.


Gomes Howler (Spurs v Real Madrid)

Apologies if this breaks some copyright infringement, but this is a superb picture taken from the BBC Sport website.
Unless of course you’re a Spurs fan, in which case it’s significantly less easy on the eye. Still though, Gomes’ howler wasn’t the reason the fantastic Champions League journey has come to an end – but Peter Crouch’s tackling very well might be.


As for the mistake, sadly it’s the type of error that Gomes seems to come up with sporadically. It can happen to anyone, but it seems to happen to him a little too often. For a team aspiring to one of the best teams in England and possibly Europe, ou would have to doubt whether or not he’s reliable enough for Spurs. The Brazilian does have a lot of strong points, but are the weaknesses a little too obvious a little too often?


Manuel Almunia Howler Exposes Arsenal

Manuel Almunia Howler

All looked rosey in Arsenal’s goalkeeping garden at the turn of the year, but it hasn’t taken long for a familiar thorn to pierce Arsene Wenger’s side. It’s difficult to send too much criticism the way of Wenger for suffering the misfortune of a series of injuries to his goalkeepers, but the obvious question is how have Arsenal found themselves in a situation where they are again left with the choice between Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann in the midst of a title challenge? On Saturday the weakness came to the fore as Arsenal dropped two valuable points at the Hawthorns and were probably grateful not to have dropped all three.

In this instance, Almunia made a baffling, unnecessary and woefully misjudged attempt to clear a through ball that didn’t appear to be overly threatening. Peter Odemwingie wasn’t in the mood to turn down such generosity and Arsenal found their title bid in a hole from which they just about rescued it from.


One of the great problems with Almunia is that he makes such a wide variety of errors. Sometimes it’s his hands, sometimes it’s his angles, sometimes it’s his kicking, on Saturday it was his decision-making. He has to be a goalkeeping coach’s nightmare. There are just so many areas of his game where there is potential for weakness that once you get one aspect in order, the chances are there’s another facet of his game that has been exposed. It’s been the story of his career at Arsenal.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Almunia is we all know he can do it. At his best, he’s amazingly agile and commendably brave. You can possibly see why Arsene Wenger has stood by him so resolutely for so long. Against Barcelona, he showed his ability and his performance was so good, it still mattered when Nicklas Bendtner fluffed a glorious chance to snatch it for Arsenal is the closing minutes. We just don’t see it often enough and it’s his lack of consistency rather than a lack of ability than has been so detrimental to Arsenal in the past.

Sadly, it’s here where the criticism of Wenger is warranted. He has had ample opportunity to buy a top quality replacement, but has regularly turned down apparently suitable options. Maybe the emergence of Wojiech Sczeszny convinced him a long-term solution to his problem was on the horizon, but no matter how highly he rates the young Pole, he will make mistakes and needs someone in the squad to take the pressure off as he finds his way in the first team.

When your emergency cover starts to look like a better option than your current number 1, some of the blame has to fall on the manager.

Al Habsi Howler

There was a lot to like about Wigan’s display at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday. They did a lot of things right and with more composure in front of goal and a slice of luck, could have come away with a point that may prove crucial in the fight for survival. If ever a team needed their goalkeeper to do the basics right, it was when David Silva hit a tame shot towards Ali Al-Habsi and the full repercussions of the error will only be known shortly before 5 o’clock on the final day of the season.

It’s the exception rather than the rule, because I’ve been impressed with Al Hamsi this season. Technically he’s a nightmare and too often needs a couple of bites at the cherry to hold on to seemingly straightforward shots, but he’s supremely agile and his lightning quick reflexes – arguably his biggest strength – help him pull off some amazing saves. All in all, he’s certainly a Premier League standard goalkeeper, but what level of the Premier League will depend on how much he comes along for his first full season of English football and the other options available. He’ll return to Bolton in the summer and depending on the career plans of Jussi Jaaskelainen. As youthful as he looks, the Finn will turn 36 next month and although Al Hamsi was initially taken to the Reebok as an insurance policy for a big club swooping for their first choice, he has hung in there long enough to be his eventual successor. For their part, Wigan have been linked heavily to Keiren Westwood of Coventry as Chris Kirkland struggles to convince. With his 40th birthday on the way, Mike Pollitt is little more than an emergency option and it leaves the Latics’ goalkeeping cupboard looking quite bare.

When his time with Wigan comes to an end, Al-Habsi will be remembered for his dreadful error, but he has been a good performer for them this season and will be for someone else in future.