The position of goalkeeper is a thankless one, their mistakes are magnified tenfold more than anywhere else on the pitch and it’s also a position that takes a hell of a lot of shifting from once you’ve got hold of the number 1 jersey. The position of number 2 at a club is therefore an interesting one, but who’s the best of the bunch in our very own top flight?
Chelsea obviously has Petr Cech as number 1, a solid goalkeeper, that whilst he hasn’t ever been the same since the incident with Stephen Hunt two seasons ago, he’s a reassuring presence in the Chelsea backline. When the Czech international gets injured though widespread panic sets in, for Hilario, or Hilarious as he’s rather less affectionately known in some quarters certainly is a poor keeper to say the least and even Ross Turnbull who has stepped in at times this term, looks out of his depth at this level.
Title rivals Man Utd however are better stocked in the goalkeeping department with Tomas Kuszczak a worthy number 1 for most sides let alone a number 2 with his excellent reflexes and his ability to dominate his box, but he’s still raw, which at 28 years of age seems a ridiculous thing to say but he’s played a startlingly small amount of football considering his age, but the biggest compliment you can pay him is that when Edwin Van Der Sar hasn’t been between the sticks this season, you’ve barely noticed his absence.
Arsenal’s first choice keeper Manuel Almunia is really a number 2 in disguise in more ways than one, prior to establishing himself at Arsenal he’d struggled to break into less illustrious clubs such as Celta Vigo, Osasuna and Recreativo, the fact he’s still the custodian of the number one spot tells you how bad understudy Lukasz Fabianski is. Gaffe prone as proven by his performance at Wigan yesterday, the goalkeeping position is surely one of Wenger’s main concerns and should see investment in the position come the summer.
Diego Cavalieri signed by manager Rafa Benitez for roughly £3m in the summer of 2008 faces a tough ask to dislodge Pepe Reina from the position who is definitely one of the top 5 keepers in the world and has arguably been Liverpool’s player of the season this year, which tells its own story. He’s been used sparingly in the cups and dead rubber games so far but he does look agile but little more.
Brad Guzan though certainly looks like a keeper worth the hype. The 25 year old is a penalty saving specialist and saved four in the Carling Cup match against Sunderland this season only to be replaced by Brad Friedel in the next match despite his heroics. Friedel is one of the most consistent keepers in the league, but at 38 years of age the American is no spring chicken and O’Neill has cleverly placed Guzan in the ideal position to take over from Firedel when he sees fit, with the younger Guzan possessing some of his compatriots agility and ability in one on one situations.
Spurs have Ben Alnwick as number 2 right now after Carlo Cudicini’s motorcycle accident and although the youngster looked to have bags of potential at Sunderland, he’s failed to shine in loan spells at Norwich, Leicester, Luton and Carlisle and could do with a full season in the lower leagues, before he’s destined to become a journeyman of sorts.
Which brings me rather nicely to the biggest journeyman of all, Carlo Nash at Everton, who boasts and impressive 9 league clubs and rather meagre sum of 240 games in 12 years as a pro and looks content collecting splinters on the bench. The same can be said of Burnley number 2, who spent a decade at Man City and never really made the number one jersey his own and he sits rather surprisingly still behind Brian Jensen, who is possibly one of the worst keepers ever to grace the premiership.
Wayne Hennessy at Wolves looks promising, and Matt Duke and Jamie Ashdown can look good in patches but Stojkovic at Wigan looks dross and Brown at Blackburn won’t be giving Paul Robinson sleepless nights. Steve Simonsen never really fulfilled his potential at Everton but has since carved out a decent career in the Championship with Stoke and sits not too surprisingly behind Thomas Sorensen.
Maik Taylor has bags of experience at Brum, but isn’t putting too much pressure on Joe Hart and chances are if he were between the sticks they wouldn’t have been enjoying such a great season which goes someway to McLeish’s desperation to sign him up on loan for one more season. There is Zuberbuhler at Fulham, Al Habsi at Bolton, Stuart Taylor at City (surely one of the most pointless careers in football, 68 games in 13 years is the mark of a part-time footballer) and Kurucz at West Ham, but none of them even show any remote signs of shifting their respective members of the goalkeeping fraternity at present.
So who is the best number 2 in the league? Is it a dead heat between Guzan or Kuszczak, or is there a dark horse that I’ve done a disservice too?
Written By James McManus