How many times a season do goalkeepers make mistakes?
Or perhaps the more important question is, how many times a season do we see a mistake by a goalkeeper replayed over and over because it has proved costly in a close match? It seems that a goalkeeping ‘howler’ is never far away and more often than not it leads to a goal, so why do we persist with goalkeepers who make mistakes?
After an infamous gaffe by England goalkeeper Robert Green at the 2010 World Cup, and following more recent catastrophes by Edwin Van der Saar and Tim Howard, it appears that goalkeepers not only consistently make mistakes but are actually allowed to get away with them, assured of their place in the next game.
It is only when these mistakes become so regular that they leave their manager no alternative but to drop them (no pun intended), but often this doesn’t happen as quickly as some fans would like. The question is, why is this?
The situation at Everton is a case in point. Tim Howard, a relatively consistent performer over the last four years – with the occasional moment of brilliance and the occasional critical error – has seen his position closely scrutinised in recent weeks.
Largely due to a misjudged cross against Tottenham Hotspur, which if some people are to be believed cost Everton 2 points, fans have called for Howard to be dropped in favour of the new summer signing Jan Mucha.
As both goalkeepers played in the recent World Cup, it could be argued that both are at the pinnacle of their respective careers. Mucha, untried in the Premier League but with obvious pedigree, has been called for by some of the more fickle Everton fans, to come in as a replacement for Howard, arguably one of Everton’s most consistent performers since his switch from title contenders Manchester United.
Howard, as a brilliant if unorthodox shot stopper, an excellent communicator, an experienced Premier League goalkeeper and as a fan favourite (in some quarters at least) can be adjudged to have been hard done by, by some of his followers. Why is this? And what qualities do you need to be a goalkeeper?
Every player makes mistakes. That’s a fact. But obviously, when a goalkeeper makes mistakes it more often than not leads to a goal. But a few questions must be asked: how many mistakes were made before the goalkeeper’s to allow the ball to get that far? How many mistakes are allowed by goalkeepers before they should be dropped, rested or completely disregarded and sold?
Everton fans may forget that recent performances by Howard have been exceptional, a man of the match candidate in the thrilling 3-3 draw against his former employers Manchester United, and against Spurs last season, a game-changing penalty save offered the opportunity for a draw to be salvaged on that occasion.
Strikers regularly miss chances – complete sitters or harder half-chances – midfielders are often seen to be out of form, non-existent in matches and defenders often misjudge crosses, shots and tackles to allow strikers that crucial bit of time and space. So why are these players not chastised in the same way?
Do we completely underestimate the powers of concentration, the courage, the physical presence, the technical ability and the mental strength that goalkeepers whenever they are called into action?
David Moyes it seems, is one that doesn’t, recently defending Howard following his mistake at Spurs (and his mistake at Blackburn, the only two that he has made this season), by stating that yes he may have cost Everton 3 points from those two mistakes but how many points has he saved the club already this season?
And more to the point, it is when the goalkeeper in question only stops coming for crosses altogether and not when he misses the occasional one that his place in the team should be questioned.
It happens to all goalkeepers, all go through purple patches in form, all suffer from the occasional crisis of confidence but it is how they react in the face of adversity that appears the most important quality.
This resilience under pressure, this stability and this level of consistency is what all players strive for but perhaps it is most important the further back on the pitch you play. One thing is for sure, to exude confidence, you need to be given confidence and it appears that the more we question goalkeepers, the more they may make mistakes. So should we get behind them?
Probably yes, but the relationship between fans and goalkeepers is a funny one, so should we not get involved and leave goalkeepers to their own devices?
Either way, you wouldn’t fancy being a goalkeeper.
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