David Beckham isn’t the only one who’s a lying lying liar. After Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood refused to blame Brad Guzan for the mistake that cost Villa last week at Manchester City (below), veteran Republic of Ireland international Shay Given was handed today’s start against Everton. Villa went on to defeat the visiting Toffees, 3-2, with Given’s mixed performance leaving it unclear who will start for Sherwood going forward.
Guzan started all 34 Premier League games for Villa before today, with Given’s time confined to cup competition. But after Guzan’s mistake last week in Manchester, Sherwood was questioned as to whether the 39-year-old might usurp the U.S. international. Four saves and a victory over Everton might earn Given another start.
But the last of Everton’s goals should be worrisome, even if some will contend Given should not be blamed. Perhaps a foul could have called on Seamus Coleman, who did his best to become a nuisance, but Given did little to get around the smaller man. Instead, he feebly flailed at an initial shot before the rebound off the crossbar was put back home.
Thankfully for Given, the score was 3-1 at the time, so Phil Jagielka’s stoppage time goal didn’t cost a relegation-worried Villa points, but no coach wants to see his goalkeeper so easily neutralized. Whistles are not always going to come, and if a goalkeeper can be taken out of a play by planting a right back in front of him, he’s probably not a goalkeeper that should be guaranteed starts.
This type of situation is straight from Given’s scouting report. During his time at Newcastle, Given amassed a reputation as a great shot stopper, but the other parts of this game were lacking. He’d staple himself to his line, block anything that came within a reasonable radius, but do little else to prevent shots from getting off in the first place. Had he been more aggressive before Jagielka’s header, Aston Villa wouldn’t have had to sweat out today’s final moments.
Whether Sherwood agrees, we’ll know next week, but with Villa only two points above the bottom three, the decision could prove crucial. If he absolves Given, the veteran should start next week against West Ham, even though he has a long history of being unreliable when asked to come off his line. If, on the other hand, Sherwood chooses Guzan, he’ll at least be choosing a player whose recent mistake was out-of-character with his broader body of work.