Is it time for Aston Villa No. 1 Brad Guzan to go back to the bench?

Benteke Scores Past Brad Guzan

Villa's previously reliable goalkeeper has continued to commit costly errors since reclaiming the starting job at the beginning of this season.

Brad Guzan has arguably been one of Aston Villa’s most important players in recent seasons but, after his form over the past 10 months, it has become almost impossible for even his fiercest backers to defend him.

A goal-costing error in the weekend’s 2-0 loss at Chelsea was just the latest in a long line of blunders from the US international since last term and, while this is the same keeper whose shot-stopping heroics saved the club from the drop in Paul Lambert’s first two campaigns in charge, his confidence has looked shot for some time now.

Manager Tim Sherwood is now said to be facing the sack if his side suffer a sixth straight Premier League loss on Saturday when they host Swansea City [h/t Telegraph] and, given Guzan’s ongoing struggles, one has to wonder whether the pressure will prompt him to make a change in goal.

A previous gaffe at Manchester City during last season’s run-in already saw Sherwood drop the American custodian once before and, while he was back in the line-up for the start of the new campaign, subsequent reports have suggested that was fortunate not to be forced out of the club in the summer.

The Villa boss was supposedly keen to sign Asmir Begovic from Stoke City [h/t Daily Mail] but, after missing out on the towering Bosnian to Chelsea, Guzan was given the chance to re-establish himself as the No. 1 instead.

That did not look like a bad move at the time considering that he was coming off a stellar Gold Cup campaign in the States, where he won the tournament’s Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper despite the USA’s disappointing fourth-place finish, but he has just not been able to translate his international form to the club level since.

However, while Sherwood previously had the highly experienced Shay Given to call on following the 3-2 defeat at the Etihad Stadium in April, the Irishman’s summer move to Stoke makes dropping his current starter a somewhat riskier proposition this time around.

Former Norwich City keeper Mark Bunn became the new No. 2 in July when he was signed on a free transfer after his contract at Carrow Road expired but whether he could prove a suitable replacement for Guzan until at least the winter transfer window opens is up for debate.

The 30-year-old has some past top-flight experience from covering for an injured John Ruddy during the 2012-13 campaign but, while he put in some solid performances during pre-season, the fact he has remained a backup since leaving Northampton Town for Blackburn Rovers in August 2008 is a far from encouraging sign.

A shaky display in the 5-3 Capital One Cup second round win over Notts County in August did not inspire much confidence either, and there is even a decent argument to make that Jed Steer might be a better option to come into the side when he returns from his loan stint at Huddersfield Town in mid-November.

The 23-year-old, who also arrived from Norwich in June 2013, is currently getting regular minutes at the Championship side and, while he has made just four appearances for Villa so far, the new deal he signed last week until 2019 suggests that the coaching staff sees him as a potential long-term starter between the posts.

Last season’s 1-0 final day defeat to already-relegated Burnley saw the former England youth international handed his Premier League debut knowing the club were safe from the drop, although it remains to be seen how he would cope with being thrown in at the deep end with another survival battle on the horizon.

  2015-16TeamGoals Conceded GAMEClean SheetsSaves GAMESave %Total Keeper SweepersAccurate Keeper SweepersCross Claim SuccessGoal Kick AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Brad Guzan Premier League Aston Villa 1.67 1 3.44 69% 8 6 95% 54% 9 810
Jed Steer Championship Huddersfield 1.14 2 2.86 69% 9 9 93% 38% 7 630

Ultimately, Guzan may simply stay in the line-up by necessity until January but, with reports earlier this month claiming that a bid is being lined up for Mainz’s up-and-coming Loris Karius [h/t Telegraph], his future at Villa Park is looking bleak.

At age 31 and just 18 months removed from being considered one of the Premier League’s best keepers, there are reasons to think that giving up on the Chicago-native could come back to bite the club, but the mistakes that have crept into his game in 2015 are too hard to ignore while they are costing a struggling side valuable points.

Fans would undoubtedly love nothing more than to see their 2012-13 Player of the Year return to the past form that made him a Holte End hero but their patience has all but run out at this point, and the under-fire Sherwood is presumably feeling the same way.

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