Southampton's Keeper Conundrum: Who Should Start in Goal for Saints?
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There is an American football saying that goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none," meaning that if you have two quarterbacks who play regularly, you don't have one that's any good. If you had a good quarterback, you wouldn't mess around playing the other one.
The Southampton goalkeeping situation is a bit like that saying. Currently, Southampton have three goalkeepers on the roster that could make a claim to being the number one choice in goal for Saints. Artur Boruc, Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga all have positives and negatives to their games. But if Southampton want their defense to become more consistent, one keeper is going to have to emerge from the pack.
Strengths: Experience, Stop Stopping, Reflexes
Weaknesses: Handling, Unorthodox Technique, Mental Stability
Boruc spent the past two seasons as the number one choice keeper at Fiorentina, who finished ninth in Serie A in 2011-12. Prior to Fiorentina, Boruc played with Celtic for five seasons, appearing in the UEFA Champions League on four occasions.
Boruc shows good reflexes and shot stopping skills, although his technique at times isn't exactly from the training ground. The Polish international is known to fling whatever body part is most convenient at the ball to stop it, which results in some parries and rebounds from shots that might actually be catchable.
Boruc isn't a stranger to controversy, either. Nicknamed "The Holy Goalie" for his tendency to bless himself with the Sign of the Cross, his actions incensed the heavily Protestant Rangers supporters.
And like a fair bit of goalkeepers, Boruc has a bit of a crazy, weird side. Boruc once made a New Year's Resolution to rid space of black holes. A parody of his off-beat character has been a subject of recurring posts in Yahoo!'s Dirty Tackle blog, titled "Artur Boruc's Rage List." In the blog, Boruc, fights the ever-present danger of corn, drinks lighter fluid and professes his love for The Little Mermaid.
After taking a couple of weeks to settle in, Boruc made an appearance with the Saints' Under 21 team last Monday, so he should be ready for selection with the senior squad by Southampton Manager Nigel Adkins at any time.
Strengths: Experience, Leadership
Weaknesses: Handling, Positioning, Distribution
Davis has been a fixture between the sticks for Southampton since joining the club in 2006. He has been a loyal servant, staying with Saints through their drop to League One and back up through the ranks with back-to-back promotions.
His leadership abilities have been recognized as he has been named Southampton's club captain since 2009. The 36-year-old was named the top goalkeeper in the npower Championship last season.
His return to the Premier League has been a struggle, though. In four appearances, Davis conceded 14 goals while only making 16 saves. Davis has had trouble allowing goals to his near post, fumbling balls that he should control comfortably, and his distribution, especially with his feet, has been poor.
Davis has been left on the bench for Southampton's last three games, so it appears that the veteran is firmly entrenched in Adkins' doghouse at the present time.
Strengths: Size, Agility, Distribution
Weaknesses: Inexperience, Positioning
Gazzaniga was brought in from League Two Gillingham over the summer as cover for Kelvin Davis and perhaps be Southampton's goalkeeper of the future.
No one at the club could have expected the future to come in September, though, as Gazzaniga received his first Premier League start against Aston Villa.
In four appearances (two Premier League, two Capital One Cup), Gazzaniga has conceded five goals, while making 14 saves.
Gazzaniga's height (6'5") makes him a force in claiming aerial balls near his goal. His save on Nikica Jelavic's header in the Everton game was a save Kelvin Davis could only dream of making and showed Gazzaniga's superior agility. The 20-year-old's distribution skills can be seen in this video, as Gazzaniga often can find a teammate's feet from over 50 yards away.
Who should be starting in net for Southampton?
But with such youth comes natural issues with young goalkeepers. The goal that Gazzaniga conceded against Aston Villa was the fault of a communication breakdown between Danny Fox, Maya Yoshida and Gazzaniga and resulted in a simple ball finding Darren Bent who tapped the ball into the net.
Gazzaniga's positioning also has come into question. In the Everton match, Everton's second goal came on a counterattack where Jelavic had plenty of space to shoot at the far post because Gazzaniga had overcommitted to protecting the near post and got the angle all wrong.
If Adkins wants to keep all three keepers sharp, the best option would appear to let Boruc play the Premier League matches with Gazzaniga backing him up. Gazzaniga could play in the U21 matches to get matches in and gain experience which will benefit him in a year or two when he will be more ready for Premier League action. Davis would be rewarded for his loyalty by getting the nod in cup matches.
Hopefully in the coming weeks, Adkins and Southampton will prove they have one goalkeeper, not three.
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