Steve Bruce didn’t wait around to praise the performance of his new number one goalkeeper in Aston Villa’s narrow FA Cup defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
"It was an excellent debut," his manager said after the game, as reported by the Birmingham Mail. "We're delighted we've got him. He's got all the attributes to be a very good young goalkeeper.”
Therefore, with Villa’s future in safe hands for now, it would be easy take Pierluigi Gollini’s imminent exit with a pinch of salt. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, Atalanta, the youthful side taking Serie A by storm this season, are in advanced talks to sign the 21-year-old this month.
Now, the Italian has been far from faultless at Villa Park, hence why he was dropped for Mark Bunn in mid-December. Bruce only lost two of his first ten games in charge and, on both occasions, Gollini was culpable, failing to deal with rather straight-forward attempts against both Leeds and Norwich.
Johnstone, after gaining valuable lower league experience through a series of temporary deals, appears much more adapted to the physicality of the English game. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that the 23-year-old will only be at Villa Park until May with parent club Manchester United showing little interest in letting him leave on a permanent basis.
Furthermore, although understudy Mark Bunn caught the eye on occasions in Gollini’s absence, he was only ever intended to be a stop-gap. Reacting painfully slow to Joe Ralls’ trickling effort in the 1-0 defeat to Cardiff early this month, there’s a reason why he hasn’t been the first choice for anyone since a season on loan at Sheffield United in 2009/10.
However, more talented goalkeepers than Gollini, David De Gea and Hugo Lloris to name just two, endured a baptism of fire in English football before coming through the other side a more rounded goalkeeper. Though Villa seem ready to cut their ties after just six months.
Gianluca Di Marzio report that Gollini will move to Atalanta on a loan deal with an option to buy. If they take up that opportunity, Villa could find themselves on the market for yet another goalkeeper in the summer.