Shay Given is quite possibly the best number two goalkeeper on the planet right now. Giovanni Trapattoni thinks he’s the best keeper in the world, Gianluigi Buffon aside, and with a great pedigree and bundles of experience at playing at the highest level for over a decade, it’s puzzling why the Irish stopper isn’t being looked at more seriously by the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, both of whom find themselves in a bit of a goalkeeping quandary at the minute with concerns to the current options available to both of them.
At 34 years of age, while not the spring chicken he once was, Given is currently at a terrific age for a goalkeeper in a position which tends to favour the late bloomer. His transfer to Manchester City looked to be a shrewd move on Mark Hughes’ part and he started 35 of City’s 38 league games last season until a dislocated shoulder in a league fixture against Arsenal on the 24th of April ruled him out of the rest of the season.
Unfortunately for Given, Joe Hart has firmly established himself as the club’s new number one and there doesn’t appear to be a way back into the starting eleven for him now. It has to be said though, that Joe Hart’s form this season for both club and country has been simply fantastic and he’s the country’s most naturally gifted goalkeeper since the heady days of David Seaman around the mid ’90s era of Terry Venables.
Given has gone on the record as stating his interest in any potential move to Celtic with “I’m a huge Celtic fan and always have been. I’m not saying anything yet but if Celtic want me then that’s where I want to end up because they are a terrific club.” On the face of things, a move for Given to Celtic would seem a good fit, but manager Neil Lennon has entrusted a lot of faith so far in Newcastle loanee goalkeeper Frazer Forster and he doesn’t look like moving for Given, just yet anyway.
Given may have to hold out until the summer if he is to clinch his dream move to the SPL giants and with the player having already stated his desire to move on this transfer window, he’s there for the taking right now for the likes of Arsenal and Man Utd.
His connection to Man City would most definitely rule him out of any potential transfer between the two, especially considering relations have become bitterer over the last couple of years, with Fergie referring to City as a ‘small club’ before calling them ‘noisy neighbours’ after the now infamous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ banner was unveiled upon the club securing the signing of Carlos Tevez.
But purely from a footballing perspective, he’d be perfect for United. His experience in the top flight of English football is vast and Ferguson could rest assured that the position was sewn up for another 3-4 years with Given in between the sticks, knowing that the Irishman could perform straight from the off, much like Van Der Sar did straight away after Ferguson signed him from Fulham back in 2005.
A much more likely move however could be to fellow title challengers Arsenal. Again, with both of these currently battling it out for the title, a move this January looks extremely unlikely, but a move at the end of the season could be just what Arsenal need. He’s also been linked with them countless times before and it’s baffling that Arsene Wenger didn’t stick in a bid when Man City signed him from Newcastle. Every manager has a blind spot, it appears Wenger’s is with goalkeepers.
Too often they’re undone by goalkeeping howlers. Almunia is a frightfully poor goalkeeper and it’s unfathomable to me how he secured the number one spot for so long. A lack of competition can be the only reason. The current holder of the number one jersey, in the absence of the ever-improving, but gaffe-prone Fabianski, is young 20 year old Wojciech Szczesny who has looked decent when called upon, but he should be looked at as one for the future, despite his apparent itchy feet and insistence that he’s ready to secure a first-team spot now.
Fabianski has performed dutifully this term, yet the feeling still persists, that no matter how good his shot stopping is, and it can be quite simply excellent at times, a mistake still looks like it lurks just right around the corner. He’s a decent goalkeeper now that he’s been given a real run of games for the first time since signing for Arsenal. Ring rustiness is particularly applicable to goalkeepers, unless your name is Wayne Bridge of course, and that some of his mistakes earlier on in his Arsenal career may be partly attributable to the fact that he was thrown in the odd match every now and again and unable to develop as he would have hoped, but with that reasoning aside, whether he’s a good enough keeper to help you win the title, I’m not so sure.
Cast your mind back to a substantial Given error though? Keep thinking? Drawing a blank still? The fact of the matter is, that allied to great reactions and handling, Given is ever so reliable and rarely ever makes mistakes. He won’t be the leader that the Arsenal back line are crying out for admittedly and his communication skills aren’t the best out of the top flight’s custodians, but he’s a class act.
It’s an odd situation where such a good goalkeeper can find his opportunities so limited, especially considering when the two clubs currently challenging Man City most for the title are the ones just crying out for a man of his talents. Man Utd need a replacement for Edwin Van Der Sar, whereas Arsenal need to finally address their shortcomings and move for a reliable number one capable of putting an end to any debate over the position at the club. While Fabianski has done well until now, the debate still persists.
A move to Man Utd looks unlikely and the same can be said for a move this term to Arsenal. Given may have to wait until the summer for the move he deserves, but if he’s patient enough, he could be rewarded with a dream move to Celtic or as part of a new-look Arsenal back five come the summer.