Sunderland: Fight for the number one spot
Posted by Paul David Sanderson | Published on May 19, 2016
Last season’s battle for number one was a tale of two goalkeepers who had different ambitions. For Sunderland-born Jordan Pickford it was trying to break into the first team and play for the club he’s always dreamed of playing for. However, for Italian stopper Vito Mannone it was a bit different. With the Euros only a few weeks away he hoped that, with the retirement of Gianluigi Buffon from international football, he could break into the Italy squad. But despite two good performances from Jordan Pickford after he returned from his loan spell, Mannone was the winner and was a key part in Sunderland’s survival.
With next season a distant horizon on the back burner, it’s safe to say that Sam won’t be making any major goal keeping changes in the next transfer window. So who gets the coveted number one spot?
Vito was back at his best this season. When Costel Pantilimon left to go to Watford in the January transfer window, Mannone stepped up and filled that role perfectly. Despite having a few hiccups in his first few games, he was able to shine with the protection of defenders Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul in front. As Mannone’s form improved, the chance opened up for Mannone to play in the Italy squad.
Mannone’s agent Robert De Fanti has stated that his client’s goal is to now play for his country after being “absolutely instrumental” in keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.
However, Mannone wasn’t picked for the pre-Euro camp. For me it’s clear why he wasn’t picked, due to his inconsistency, especially with his distribution. Last season we saw games where Mannone was at his best but others where small mistakes on his part cost us the game. Most of those mistakes from losing the ball.
This is where Pickford comes in. Displaying fantastic reflexes and great shot-stopping skills, Pickford certainly has enough to become first team keeper. More impressively, he has a very powerful left-foot which contributes to a key part of his game, his distribution. This was evident on the final game of the season against Watford. With another academy graduate in Duncan Watmore now playing first team football, Pickford has a target to aim for. Once Pickford launches that ball up forward field, the counter attack can be deadly. The real question is without the experience that Mannone has, is he ready to start?
Here is what Pickford had to say on the matter:
“Next season is a big chance because I feel like I am ready to make that step to playing in the side,” said Pickford. “I just have to keep working hard in training. If he picks me, he picks me. I will be patient, and make sure I’m ready for that step.”
Despite Mannone being instrumental in Sunderland’s survival this season, for me Pickford should start next season. Pickford has the potential to be one of the best goalkeepers in the premier league but in order for him to have that chance Sam must start to play him. It was shown by Jack Butland last season that if you give a young goalkeeper a chance it can pay off. With that in mind, next season in order to gain the stability which is needed as a club and build a platform for the future, we should start Jordan Pickford.
Do you agree?