The American's blunder in Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Manchester City has led to increasing calls for Shay Given to replace him in goal.
There’s a strong argument to make that goalkeeper Brad Guzan has been Aston Villa’s most important player since taking the number one job from now-backup Shay Given at the start of the 2012-13 season.
Helping save the club from relegation in back-to-back campaigns with his shot-stopping heroics, the US international’s influence has even rivalled that of Christian Benteke and had some hailing him as one of the Premier League’s leading custodians.
The Chicago-native has not had to put in such colossal showings this term, due to the club’s defence making big strides forward, but his place had never once been questioned until recent months when Given’s FA Cup performances started to stir debate.
Handed the chance to start cup games, the Irishman earned widespread plaudits for his role in the 2-1 fifth-round win over Leicester and, with the backing of some ex-teammates in the media, has since been vocal about his desire to win back his old job.
There were even reports that he could be in the line-up for last weekend’s trip to former club Manchester City and, while he had to settle for bench spot in the end, an early Guzan blunder has seen support for the veteran to start the coming clash with Everton grow tenfold.
Nevertheless, as poor as the sliced clearance which led to Sergio Aguero’s third-minute opener was, rushing to call for Given’s reinstatement still seems like a rash reaction.
For one, it’s hard to pinpoint where else Guzan has cost Villa in recent games, while, despite all the praise he has received, Given has not in fact been as dominant during the run to the FA Cup final as some seem to be suggesting.
Aside from one impressive stop in the Leicester win, the former Newcastle United man has had little else to do through the other rounds of the competition, while, meanwhile, his teammate’s 102 saves and 72 claimed crosses this season are the fifth and second most in the Premier League.
|Position||Team||Saves||Total Crosses Claimed||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Brad Guzan||GK||Aston Villa||101||72||34||3,060|
Of course, no one should be undroppable but, while Guzan has had some questionable moments, it's worth noting that Given was also benched in the first place two seasons ago because it looked like he could no longer handle starting in the top-flight week-in-week-out.
At 39, he might have the experience but throwing him back into a regular role at this point of the season would seem like a far riskier move than sacrificing Guzan, who knows full well how to handle a relegation battle.
Few top keepers have gone through this season without at least one glaring mistake – even the likes of David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois – and, while some are starting to suggest that the former MLS star’s confidence might now be shot, manager Tim Sherwood seems to have confidence that he will have no problems bouncing back.
"Brad knows he's just got to bounce back,” the Villa boss told the club’s official website earlier this week. “I am confident he will.
"It won't be his first mistake and it won't his last. That's the nature of the game for a goalkeeper. You just have to get on with it.
"He's a good character and I know the boys aren't pointing any fingers at him. He's made a mistake. No-one is putting blame on him.”
Having also suggested that he will keep his place for the visit of Everton, Guzan looks like he will get a shot at redemption on the weekend and, considering all that he has done for the club since coming into the side, he deserves it.
The last thing the team needs with four league games left is for fans to start getting on one individual’s back and, with the renewed spirit shown since Sherwood’s arrival, there’s all the chance that he will rebound in impressive fashion.
Do you agree, or does Given deserve an opportunity?