Your starting place is not a Given, Brad

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Following his one hundredth consecutive Premier League start, I feel it is time for Brad Guzan to step aside and allow Shay Given to return to the first team.

In the wake of his sensational performance in the FA Cup against Leicester City two weeks ago, a number of fans have called for Given to return to the starting XI. The former number one goalkeeper fell out of favour with Paul Lambert after just two games.

The last time that the Irishman started a game in the Premier League was at Villa Park against Everton on August 25th 2012, in a game which the Villans lost 3-1. The following game was an away draw to Newcastle United and Given was left on the bench.

Since that game at St James’ Park, one hundred games have passed in the Premier League and Given hasn’t played a single minute during that time. Now is the perfect opportunity to return: there is a new manager at the helm and the Villans are playing the club Given spent twelve years with.

I’m not suggesting for one second that Brad Guzan is a bad goalkeeper. It would be crazy to dismiss the fact that he kept us up two years ago. However, I have some issues with the American’s style that have led to problems for us recently.

Although you can hardly ever criticise Guzan’s shot stopping, one element of his game that has always been a weakness is his distribution. There have been countless occasions this season when Guzan has been passed the ball or has been taking a goal-kick and, under no pressure, has kicked the ball as far as he can, even if it goes into a stand, which happens regularly. It is almost as if he doesn’t think about what he is doing when on the ball and doesn’t realise that pointless punts up the pitch lead to the ball coming back at him more quickly. A goalkeeper playing in the Premier League shouldn’t panic on the ball.

Shay Given is much better on the ball than Brad Guzan and it comes down to him having a ‘footballing brain’ as well as greater experience. He rarely panics when on the ball and he seems to make the correct decision when it comes to distribution all the time. Even though Given will hit a long pass down the pitch, he often hits dense areas where our players are, something that Guzan does not do.

Other advantages of having Shay Given in the starting XI include having an experienced head at the back who will give confidence to the back four and someone who commands the penalty area. Overall, Given is a top goalkeeper who has been there and done it all. I think the time has come to reinstate Shay Given as our number one and would love to see it happen this afternoon at St James’ Park.

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