Does Butland deserve to start in France?
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 6, 2016
Jack Butland has been one of the standout performers in the Premier League this season. Despite always being touted as one of England’s young stars, the 2015/16 season has been a real breakthrough in Jack’s performances competing with the likes of David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois for the label of best Premier League goalkeeper. His stunning form has catapulted Stoke City into a Europa League battle and he has been an instrumental cog in keeping clean sheets week in, week out pulling off a number of vital saves as the season has gone on.
England current number one keeper Joe Hart is considered a ‘veteran’ in comparison to Butland. He’s made 57 appearances for his country and it was considered a miracle that England could finally produce a world class stopper, after so many years of Paul Robinson and Scott Carson related pains in our lives. Hart made his international debut in 2008 so many would think his names carved in stone for the starting XI come the summer, however could Butland pose more threats for Hart than many expect when we crunch the numbers?
For starters Jack is a superb shot stopper, he has shown he is capable of producing some brilliant late reflex saves as proven against Spurs earlier in the season. His ability to read the strikers body shape is subtle and this allows him to pull off big saves some keepers can only dream of. Jack’s athleticism is also a huge part of his game, his speed combined with his youth means he has no problems coming off his line to pick up loose through balls. He is also able to play the sweeper keeper role if he is required to due to his superb understanding of the game and his ability to read the play coming towards him. Due to his large stature Butland is able to close down the angles of the goal very impressively which offers the striker few options if he leaves it too late making him a force to be reckoned with as he gains experience and improves his levels of concentration.
Due to being surprisingly similar players it makes selection very difficult for Roy Hodgson, but Harts error prone nature can leave fans anxious and on edge when watching his performances. As of yet Butland hasn’t looked as dubious in his keeping methods and his consistency is definitely a reason to choose him over Hart. As shown through Hart’s nightmare performance vs Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, a mistake always seems to be waiting just around the corner. Moreover, at times Hart does leave much to be desired on the mental side of his game. His overconfidence in the last Euro’s cost him dearly as Andrea Pirlo took him down a few notches with ‘that’ penalty and it’s clear at times Joe patience and concentration can waver leaving him susceptible to mistakes at big moments. Butland’s perception of the game could be a crucial component in pressured situations in France and his focus is vastly impressive at such a young age, for this reason he possibly could be a better option than Hart and a more reliable keeper at that!
Despite playing three less games Hart currently leads in terms of clean sheets, however the battle is fierce with Hart leading on 12 in comparison to Butland’s 10. However, when taking a deeper look it’s clear that playing for a team like Stoke Butland is being worked much harder than Hart having to make a huge 71 saves whilst Hart has only has had to make 54! In terms of dominating their area Hart seems more inclined to punch completing 24 whilst Butland has made more catches on 77 in comparison to Hart’s 73. As an England keeper its important they are useful in possession and distribution but Butland’s distribution percentage of 55% is rather disappointing considering he is such an intelligent and natural footballer. But on deeper inspection considering the quality of player in comparison to Man City’s multi-million-pound team you can understand why this figure is lower than Hart’s 60%.
However, the biggest factor when picking between these two keepers in the summer is their experience. Due to Butland only having 3 England appearances to his name this may be the deciding factor in this conflict between two top class players. Due to Hart experiencing major finals on the club and world stage he is more likely to handle the nerves and the pressure much better than young Jack. Hart’s leadership also makes him an indispensable member of the England starting XI. After captaining the team on a few occasions and really being one of the most motivational voices in the team, England need Joe’s leadership on the field to keep them motivated and guide them through considering the relative inexperience of a number of new players coming in to the squad. If it was down to form this season, I believe Jack Butland could start in the Euro’s; but playing for England is so much more of that, you are playing for the pride, respect and honour of your country.