Given and Aston Villa have questions to answer in the new season

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Aston Villa

1st Team Goalkeepers: Shay Given (36), Brad Guzan (27), Andy Marshall (37), Benjamin Siegrist
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With the arrival of Paul Lambert, it should be a period of optimism at Aston Villa, but with the new season nearly upon us, there’s a feeling of ambivalence around Villa Park. The squad that got a little too close to the relegation battle for comfort hasn’t been overhauled and although they welcome back Darren Bent from injury it’s hard to know what to expect from them.

The goalkeeping ranks sum up the uncertainty. Shay Given was one of Villa’s star performers last season, but his injury troubles and performances for Ireland at the European Championship will have set off a few alarm bells. During the season, there were few suggestions that age was catching up with the Irishman, but as the months rolled by, he became more injury-prone and it seemed to impact his performances. If he has got over the niggles and returned to full health, we can expect the agile and experienced Given we’ve seen for the better part of 20 years of Premier League football. If it’s the sign of the inevitable and irreversible decline that will strike every player, Villa could have a big problem.

Behind him, Villa’s goalkeeping options are far less experienced and proven. Brad Guzan arrived at Villa Park with a big reputation, but his career has stalled. He has made 32 appearances in four years with the Villains and although there have been signs of his ability, the American is far from an established deputy. The fact he was released by the club when his contract expired earlier this summer only to be re-signed a few weeks later hints at the slight indifference towards him. Part of the episode may have been down to contract wranglings, but it doesn’t suggest they have a massive amount of faith in the American.

Backing up Given and Guzan, Villa have goalkeepers at opposite ends of their careers. Andy Marshall is seeing out his career at the club and is an experienced name to call upon if the club suffer an injury crisis with their goalkeepers. Having joined the club’s academy in 2009, Benjamin Siegrist has been promoted to the senior squad for the new season. The young Swiss keeper was part of the team that won the Under 17 World Cup in 2009, a tournament in which he won the Golden Glove award for top goalkeeper. He’s a tall man, but his speed and mobility is impressive. If Given and Guzan stay fit, it’s likely he’ll go out on loan for at least part of the season.


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Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Shay Given

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.

2011/12 Premier League Goalkeeper Preview: Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Shay Given

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.