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Buffon extends unbeatable spell

Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon hasn't conceded in seven games, setting a personal best for clean sheets.

Gigi Buffon has continued his magnificent return to form after a tough start to the season and last night's 2-0 win over Bologna allowed him to break his personal record of 568 minutes without conceding.

The Italian international hasn't picked the ball out of his net since Juventus conceded four goals in their 4-2 loss to Fiorentina on October 20.

After that reverse against the Viola there were suggestions from some elements of the Italian media that Buffon was losing his way, but he seems to be emphatically answering his critics.

Juventus didn't concede against Genoa, Catania, Parma, Napoli, Livorno or Udinese ahead of their win over Bologna.

It is now an impressive 640 minutes since Buffon has been beaten.

In the aftermath of Juventus' devastating 4-2 defeat against Fiorentina - a game they had led 2-0 - the knives came out for Gigi Buffon.

Buffon's position at Juventus, like his position in the Italian national team, has been set in stone for more than a decade. But after some uncharacteristic lapses, there were calls for him to be axed.

Critics pointed out the statistic that prior to Juve's game against Genoa, one in every three shots on target against the Bianconeri went in. The logic went that a solid defence was the Old Lady's greatest weapon and there's was probably stronger than Roma's, so the fact that Roma had conceded just once and Juve had shipped 10 was an indictment of Buffon.

However, rather than turn his back on their No. 1, Juve boss Conte offered his complete support, which was echoed by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

Two games later and two clean sheets later, things look very different. A week can be a long time in football and Buffon's confidence is visibly on the rise once more.

And confidence is the key word. Even at his worst nobody really queried Buffon's positional sense or athleticism, it was a mental block more than anything else.

At the highest level, the difference between a good goalkeeper and a bad goalkeeper is so often confidence, so dropping the custodian seems to be an odd way of arresting his slump.

Goalkeepers are different. Unlike other players for whom the bench is always a possibility, 'keepers are benched so infrequently that it is a terrifying possibility.

A 'keeper on a bench isn't readying himself for his 20-minute chance, he's simply sitting and in the full glare of the cameras watching his every facial expression. The whole experience is essentially punitive and in the end counter-productive. 

Testing as it is, goalkeepers need to play their way through difficulties. If Pellegrini shows faith in Hart it will be rewarded, just look at Buffon.

image: © mikebrown59

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