The 31-year-old American goalkeeper is widely expected to be on his way out of Villa Park this summer following the signing of fellow shot-stopper Pierluigi Gollini.
The 31-year-old US national team goalkeeper has yet to discuss his future with new manager Roberto Di Matteo after being given extra time off following last month’s Copa America Centenario, but the recent £4.1 million signing of Italian shot-stopper Pierluigi Gollini from Hellas Verona suggests that his days in claret and blue are almost certainly numbered.
Plenty of Villa fans will likely be delighted to see the back of the American custodian after subjecting him to fierce and unrelenting criticism last term for his error-strewn performances, but there was a time when they would have been distraught at the very idea of him leaving.
Having spent his first four seasons at Villa biding his time on the bench behind compatriot Brad Friedel and then Shay Given, Guzan was finally handed the No. 1 jersey by Paul Lambert at the start of the 2012-13 campaign and immediately went about showcasing the talent that prompted Martin O’Neill to secure his services from now-defunct MLS side Chivas USA back in 2008.
The Chicago native proved instrumental in helping save Lambert’s side from the drop that season, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in the process, and continued to perform similar miracles over the course of the following campaign to earn a reputation as one of the Premier League’s top keepers.
The West Midlands outfit were on the receiving end of some humiliating results during those two years, including a disastrous 8-0 defeat at Chelsea, but amid all the despair and discontent the former MLS star assuredly established himself as a firm fan favourite.
Over the next season, however, things began to take an unexpected turn for the worse. With Villa fighting relegation once again, Guzan suddenly saw a string of goal-costing errors creep into his game and eventually lost his place in the line-up to Given during the run-in after committing a horrendous gaffe in a 3-2 defeat at Manchester City.
His shock decline inevitably led to rumours that Lambert’s successor Tim Sherwood would look to offload him ahead of last season, but despite reports linking the club with a move for Asmir Begovic, only former Norwich City backup Mark Bunn arrived to replace the outgoing Given.
An impressive Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Glove award for the tournament’s best goalkeeper, offered some hope that the US international may be able to rediscover his form of old after being reinstated as Villa’s no. 1, but instead things only got worse.
Guzan seemingly grew increasingly bereft of confidence as the season progressed and the defeats piled up, and while he still managed to produce a few solid performances in the meantime, his frequent errors were clearly costing the club more points than he was capable of saving.
By early January, the club propped up the bottom of the top-flight with just one win and eight points from 20 games, and while there still remained some faint chance of survival, fan fury was well and truly boiling over.
Guzan had already endured plenty of criticism by that stage, but he had no way of preparing himself for the barrage of negativity that he would face for his alleged antics during the team’s 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw at Wycombe Wanderers.
Rested on the bench for the tie, the under-fire keeper and fellow substitute Joleon Lescott proceeded to anger their own fans by having a chewing gum spitting-competition from the dugout as the game went on and were later accused of swearing at those who took umbrage with their conduct, leading to ill-tempered scenes following the final whistle.
Neither player faced any discipline from Villa in the end despite supporters filing complaints to the club, but Guzan subsequently stayed on the bench for the 1-0 league win over Crystal Palace three days later as new boss Remi Garde opted to hand Bunn a run in the side.
The long-serving stopper eventually returned to the line-up in March after his positional rival failed to impress, but he was booed aggressively at every home game before being dropped again the following month by caretaker manager Eric Black once the club’s relegation to the Championship was confirmed.
He ultimately finished the campaign with just two clean sheets and 58 goals conceded in 28 league appearances, and while he went on to restore some pride during the USA’s run to the Copa America semi-finals, Di Matteo had seemingly already made plans to bring in his own No. 1.
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With 12 months left on his contract, where Guzan now goes from here remains to be seen. It’s not entirely out of the question that he could stay in B6 for the remainder of his deal, but with doubts over whether he will even be second choice over Bunn and Jed Steer, it seems far more likely that he will be heading for pastures new in the near future.
Recent reports had linked the 50-time capped international with a switch to Premier League new boys Middlesbrough [h/t Daily Mail], but the arrival of Victor Valdes at the Riverside Stadium last week seems to have taken that possibility off the table.
Instead, an alternative option could be a move back to MLS, with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl claiming earlier this summer that the ex-Chivas USA star would be open to returning to homeland if he got the right offer.
Few of the league’s teams are currently in need of a goalkeeper – especially one who’ll command a Designated Player salary – but one viable destination is his hometown club Chicago Fire. The side’s incumbent starter Sean Johnson has been involved in the US national set up in the past, but two seasons of form and fitness struggles have since seen his star fade drastically. The 27-year-old only recently won back his starting role after beginning this term on the bench, and it definitely won’t be a surprise to see him move elsewhere this summer.
Furthermore, the Eastern Conference strugglers also have a DP spot open after cutting ties with Brazilian striker Gilberto earlier this month, and having missed out on signing both Jermaine Jones and Didier Drogba over the last two mid-season transfer windows, they could certainly help appease their frustrated fanbase by bringing in a high-profile name. Guzan definitely wouldn’t come cheap given the deal Tim Howard netted with the Colorado Rapids, but for a team that has struggled for relevancy of late his signing would make plenty of sense.
Ultimately, there’ll be no shortage of fans ready to celebrate if and when Guzan’s departure is announced, but for as bad as his last two seasons have been, you simply can’t deny that he deserves credit for the service he has given Villa over the years. This after all is a player who fought back from being briefly released in the summer of 2012 to play a key role in keeping the club up in back-to-back campaigns, while also showing his loyalty when there was talk of interest from Arsenal following his stellar 2012-13 season.
The claret and blues would have surely been relegated long before last season without his shot-stopping heroics, but the football world’s obsession with the short-term regrettably means he’ll be more remembered as one of the main causes for the end of their 28-year stay in the top-flight.
For someone who looked well on track to becoming a Villa legend at one point, that will be a desperately sad note to leave on.