Football FanCast columnist Tom Jones looks at the goalkeeping selection headache facing Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill.
Aston Villa have started the season well, as they lie 7th in the Premier League table and have successfully reached the quarter final of the Carling Cup. Brad Friedel has been Villa’s first choice ‘keeper thus far, but an excellent performance by fellow American Brad Guzan on Tuesday night has given manager Martin O’Neill food for thought. But should O’Neill stick with the experienced Friedel, or does Guzan deserve an extended run inbetween the sticks?
Brad Guzan’s match-winning display for Villa against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in midweek would have pleased Martin O’Neill as well as the Villa fans. In total Guzan saved four penalties, one in the second half and three in the penalty shootout, and was almost unbeatable. It will be a game that Guzan will remember for the rest of his career, but has he done enough to force himself ahead of Brad Friedel and into O’Neill’s first-team plans?
The Aston Villa manger was certainly impressed with Guzan’s efforts on Tuesday night. O’Neill said in The Telegraph “he gave a fantastic performance. He has got everything and he is as brave as they come. He looked really comfortable and I can pay him no higher compliment than to say I almost expected him to make the saves.” So O’Neill obviously rates the American ‘keeper very highly, but perhaps most importantly he mentioned his future potential more than his current ability. O’Neill further stated “I think he is a great keeper in the making. At the minute Brad is there because he has turned in some fabulous displays for us as he has done for some considerable time.” But how long will it be before Guzan is the Villa number one?
For the past couple of years Brad Friedel has been one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League. At the age of 38, he obviously has plenty of top-flight experience and he has become incredibly reliable for any team he has played for. But maybe this season there have been some moments when Friedel has looked past his best. In Villa’s victory against Chelsea, Friedel himself would have been very disappointed to let Drogba’s speculative shot past him, but he did make up for that mistake with a couple of solid second-half saves. The only concern for O’Neill is that as Friedel gets older, his concentration levels are likely to start to drop.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill will be delighted with Brad Guzan’s performance on Tuesday, but for now I think the American will have to settle for a few first-team appearances in the cup competitions and a place on the bench in the league. But Friedel may begin to start looking over his shoulder and surely Guzan will force his way into the team sooner rather than later. But the question is, how long will it be before O’Neill replaces one American for another, and selects Guzan ahead of Friedel?