Saturday, 14 May 2011

Heurelho Gomes – A Part of the North London Goalkeeper Crises

“He’s a great shot-stopper but...”

For Heurelho Gomes, and Tottenham fans, this is an all too familiar phrase used by pundits and even opposition football fans when describing the 30 year old Brazilian. He joins the ever growing list of Premiership goalkeepers, who have made mistakes on the grandest stage, and it seems that the problem for Gomes is, he makes them far too often and the patience of loyal Sours fans has finally run out.

For some goalkeepers, it is a rarity that they make a mistake. Take Pepe Reina for example, the Liverpool keeper scored a calamitous own goal against Arsenal on the first day of the season, and has since gone on to have a faultless season. Manchester United’s instrumental goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar made a mistake against West Brom earlier in the season, this my friends, is a collector’s item.

Look no further for a team with highly publicized goalkeeping problems than North London rivals; Arsenal. They’ve had so many issues with that goalkeeper position this season; they’ve used five different ‘keepers. Lukasz Fabianski was the number one, but injury saw his season end prematurely and young Polish stopper Wojciech Szczęsny, then was seen as the great new hope, took the vacancy. However injury slowed his season, as well as the huge mistake in the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham help put a black mark on his claim for the number one shirt. Manuel Almunia hasn’t looked the same player as he was two seasons ago, and is on par with Gomes in terms of mistakes in important matches. Last but not least is Jens Lehmann, who put down his slippers and cigar, came out of retirement and answered Wenger’s call, and added his experienced presence to the Arsenal dressing room and even managed to play a game.

It’s no coincidence that Arsenal have missed out on “four” trophies this season, Tottenham got spanked and dumped out of the Champions League, missing out on fourth place as well, that the goalkeepers of each respective club taking the flack for most of the disappointment.

And it’s no coincidence that both Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger will both be vying for a new goalkeeper this summer, no matter how many sympathetic words they have directed to their prospective number ones.

Is Gomes as bad as people have been making out? I mean Brazil has a history of eccentric goalkeepers, prone to big mistakes, yet sensation shot stoppers. Flapping at crosses, yet displaying excellent reflexes and agility. Hélton of FC Porto is a good example, as well as AC Milan legend Dida. Both brilliant shot stoppers, but prone to mistakes at the highest level.

The pressure definitely seems to affects Gomes, when he’s under the cosh; it seems he folds all too easily and ends up spilling a ball into the net.

Against Blackpool he goes from zero to hero, then back to hero in the matter of minutes, saving a penalty and then conceding one moments later from the resorting corner. Against Real Madrid he is at fault for letting a tame Ronaldo shot past him, in both legs of the Champions League quarter final. He rolled the ball out against Manchester United, hoping to take a free kick; Nani took the ball amidst all the confusion and put the ball in the net. He made two big mistakes against Chelsea this season, one against Drogba, and most memorably against a soft Frank Lampard shot which he fumbled past him into the net. He’s let a 25 yard shot from Ashley Young squirm under him, given away a ridiculous penalty against Udinese, and even fumble a Fulham cross into his own net. The list goes on and on.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp recently stated that Gomes will be his number one until the end of the season; however a “back” injury was the supposed reason for his exclusion from the Champions League decider against Manchester City, in which Italian Carlo Cudicini impressed, his performance was seen as breath of fresh air, and made you wonder why on earth this man warms the bench!?

Cudicini was thrown into the starting XI, to make his first Premiership start in four and a half months. He was as impressive as we all remember; turning back the clock and giving the kind of performance he gave on numerous occasions during his time at Chelsea. Despite the 1-0 defeat where he was beaten by a Peter Crouch own goal, Cudicini was lauded.

The only set back for Cudicini becoming in his quest to be the undisputed number one, is that he is turning 38 in September, and it seems he has one more season left in him at the most as the Spurs reserve ‘keeper. It also appears that Redknapp see’s him as the back-up goalkeeper anyhow, and while he is never one to shy away from the transfer market, will look to sign a new goalkeeper in the summer.

Names such as Ben Foster, Shay Given and Marten Stekelenburg have all been linked; because Gomes’ mistakes have been deemed far too costly, and even the fans have had enough.

One thing’s for sure; it will not only be Sir Alex Ferguson shopping around Europe and looking for a new, first class goalkeeper this season.

Who do you think Spurs should sign this summer? Do you think they should stick with Gomes? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think

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