Soccer

Jack: A tale of two goalkeepers in Manchester

{eot}
Kristian Jack
10/27/2013 4:56:05 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

It started with an absolute clinic and it ended with an astounding howler.

"What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future," once said arguably the greatest goalkeeper to ever play the game, Lev Yashin.

On Saturday in the Premier League, Wojciech Szczesny, John Ruddy, Tim Howard and David De Gea all produced magnificent saves for their sides on the way to securing crucial points. All four goalkeepers stood tall during periods of the match that their teams struggled in. They were calm and ready when needed.

On Sunday, with night falling on another weekend in the Premier League, the opposite happened when Manchester City's Joe Hart rushed out of his goal, in the final minute of a 1-1 game at Chelsea, compromising defender Matija Nastasic's options, and allowing Fernando Torres to score a dramatic late winner.

It was another poor moment in a poor season for Hart. Many immediately took to twitter to question the position of 'England's number one' but the real question should be around whether he is now 'Manchester City's number one'.

England do not play another game of significant importance for over seven months. Man City have less than seven days until their next league game.

City are a magnificent football team that, in large parts of this season so far, have shown strong glimpses of the greatness they could achieve. Their fullbacks are disciplined but dangerous in attack, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas have adapted well to their new surroundings, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero are back to the world class standard they once played at earlier last season, and even Samir Nasri and Alex Kolarov are improving by each game.

They are primed to take a serious run at the Premier League title. In order to do that, however, they need to solve two significant issues. Vincent Kompany is virtually irreplaceable at the heart of their defence and there is nothing wrong with that, after all he is one of the world's finest defenders. However, any replacement they have inserted when he has been injured has so far let them down. Martin Demicheles was guilty of conceding the first goal to Chelsea on Sunday, much like Javi Garcia was in Russia on Wednesday.

With this problem, there are, of course, expected solutions. Demicheles is a defender manager Manuel Pellegrini knows well and is likely to get better with more games under his belt and it is hopeful Kompany - who has missed 13 of their last 23 Premier League games since - will get fit soon.

What aren't predictable at all are the form and the mental state of the club's goalkeeper.

Earlier this season at Cardiff, City were in control of the match 1-0 but lost 3-2 after Hart was guilty of two poor errors, and against Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier this month, he once again let in soft goals, which led to his manager considering dropping him for their next match against Everton.

"He feels like he didn't do well against Bayern, I spoke a lot about this to him this week," said Pellegrini. "He is mentally strong and after talking to him, I decided he had the character to play (against Everton), it was a decision I made on Friday (the day before)."

Following the loss to Bayern, Pellegrini obviously gave the prospect of dropping Hart a lot of thought. Hart, as his manager suggests, comes across as a confident man but even he will be rocked by his latest error. Costel Pantilimon is Hart's backup but hasn't played a single Premier League minute since arriving at City in 2011. He is no long-term replacement, that is for sure. What he is, however, is the League Cup goalkeeper and City play Newcastle in that competition on Wednesday. What he could also be is a band-aid to stop the bleeding from a wound that is sucking the life out of an otherwise lively and legitimate title contender.

The game is full of goalkeepers who benefited from moments such as this when a supposed superior goalkeeper struggled and the Romanian deserves his chance. On an outstanding team like City, the goalkeeper is rarely there to win them matches. At the moment, their current one is, far too often, losing them matches and on Sunday, handed two precious points to one of their main challengers in the league.

The idea of goalkeepers winning matches used to be equally rare across Manchester, for rivals United. Until this season.

Three weeks ago, United were trailing 1-0 at Sunderland when Emanuele Giaccherini's powerful header look set for the top corner to put the home side up 2-0. Spaniard De Gea reacted brilliantly, leaping to his right to fingertip the ball away. It was a magnificent save and one that prompted United's legend Peter Schmeichel to call it 'one of the best I've seen'. Two second half Adnan Januzaj goals gave United a much-needed three points.

On Saturday against Stoke, United again started slowly and found themselves down 1-0. Much like Sunderland, it should have been 2-0 when Jon Walters got into the box and volleyed the ball towards goal, only for De Gea to react brilliantly once again to keep him out. United would go on to win 3-2.

"We needed our goalkeeper to make an extraordinary save again in the first half but that's what he's in the team for," stated manager David Moyes.

Through nine games this season, almost a quarter of the campaign, De Gea has been United's most important player.

United were booed off at half-time and cheered off at full-time at Old Trafford but it is when the crowd, and the team, are not at their finest that De Gea needs to be.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)


In their last three home matches, United have allowed much more shots and attacks than they did against the same teams last season.

Against West Brom, they lost 2-1 but De Gea produced a brilliant stop with his feet to deny Saido Berahino and an ever better save, finger-tipping Morgan Amalfitano's effort heading for the top corner.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)


Hosting Southampton, they drew 1-1 but it could have been worse, De Gea standing tall to deny Danny Osvaldo on a one-on-one breakaway that the inconsistent defence in front of him allowed.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

Being goalkeeper of Manchester United is not easy. Schmeichel was absolutely brilliant at it and the dozen goalkeepers between the Dane and Edwin van der Sar were abysmal.

When De Gea replaced the Dutchman at 20 years-old, many were quick to turn on him. Evaluating goalkeepers is not easy. There is no specific statistic that tells you the complete story, while analysts in England preferred highlight shows, such as the iconic 'Match of the Day', which is never a true test of a goalkeeper's worth.

For example, last season at home to Fulham, De Gea's spill led to an early goal by the visitors and, subsequently, more criticism that night on television but for the rest of the match, he was spectacular.

United's disjointed midfield and frequent poor defending this season has pushed De Gea back into the spotlight and this time, he has done nothing but shine.

Hart may be keeping City from the top of the table in Manchester but De Gea is the only reason United fans still think that is a possibility for them this season.

Hart and Torres (Photo: The Canadian Press)

zoom

(Photo: The Canadian Press)
Share This

Share This

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to Stumble UponAdd to Reddit
Print this Story


Podcasts

TSN FC with Jason de Vos & Kristian Jack - October 27

Jason de Vos & Kristian Jack look ahead to the Whitecaps playoff match against Dallas, chat BPL and break down another disaster PR week for Toronto FC

TSN FC with Luke Wileman, Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - October 21

Luke, Jason & KJ look ahead to the final week of the MLS season, plus break down what went wrong at Toronto FC this year and if the club can recover.

TSN FC with Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - October 14

Kristian Jack and Jason deVos recap the disaster at Toronto FC this season and what needs to change, plus discuss the Whitecaps playoff run.


More Podcasts

Premier League Shows on TSN.ca

TSN.ca is Canada's exclusive home to highlight and feature programs from the Barclay's Premier League. Check out the latest programs on VOD below.


Net Busters

See all the goals, saves, bloopers and quotes from each week

- Episode 5

Previous episodes: 4 | 3 | 2 | 1


BPL Match Pack

Weekly match preview show using interesting facts & figures

- Week 5

TSN TweetBox
© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television