Goalkeeper has been a problem position for Aston Villa this season – one which the loan signing of Manchester United’s Sam Johnstone has still failed to solve – meaning Steve Bruce will be searching for a new number one this summer.
Former Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo signed Pierluigi Gollini from Hellas Verona last summer in a £5million deal. Yet the 22-year-old endured a shaky start and, just as he began to show signs of improvement, was loaned to Atalanta for 18 months. The Italian’s future does not lie at Villa while Bruce remains in charge.
Current number one Johnstone also endured a less-than-convincing start to life at Villa. He has improved but still struggles to command his penalty area and shows questionable decision-making when it comes to balls into the box.
Whether or not the 24-year-old, who is unlikely to be needed at Manchester United any time soon, is signed up permanently is up in the air.
Celtic’s third-choice stopper Logan Bailly has been linked with a move to Villa Park this summer and with that in mind, we offer some solutions to Bruce’s keeping dilemma.
— Scottish Sun Sport (@scotsunsport) April 30, 2017
Belgian stopper Bailly moved to Celtic from OH Leuven in the summer of 2015 to provide backup for Craig Gordon at Celtic Park. But the 6ft 3ins custodian made just three appearances for the Hoops in his maiden campaign at the club.
When Brendan Rodgers arrived last summer he brought with him his former Swansea City keeper Dorus de Vries, relegating Bailly to third choice.
The 31-year-old was offered the chance to solve Raith Rovers’ goalkeeping crisis when all three of their keepers were injured. But Bailly clearly felt Championship football was beneath him and rejected the switch.
Whether Bailly is up to Championship football remains to be seen, though. The eight-cap Belgian international has not played a minute of competitive football this season and his decision-making, positioning and command of his area let him down.
Another to have already been linked with a move to Villa Park is Hull City keeper Allan McGregor.
The 35-year-old moved to Cardiff City on loan in January and is surplus to requirements at Hull where is behind Eldin Jakupović – also, optimistically, linked with Villa – and David Marshall.
An experienced keeper who was Rangers‘ number one for six seasons before moving to Beşiktaş, McGregor helped Hull win promotion from the Championship last season before being usurped by Marshall who, ironically, joined from Cardiff.
He is out of contract at the KCOM Stadium next summer and unlikely to get a look-in before then. A move to a Championship side vying for promotion would be ideal.
To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will pic.twitter.com/Z9dSBsHsgd
— Emiliano Martínez (@emimartinezz1) April 20, 2017
In five years at Arsenal Martínez has made six Premier League appearances for the Gunners. Two of those came this season when a goalkeeping injury crisis meant regular number one Petr Čech and backup David Ospina were both unavailable.
However, the 24-year-old is now at a make-or-break stage of his career. He can either settle in for a career where getting splinters on the substitutes’ bench is the best he can aim for or drop into the Championship – for now – and try to establish himself as a number one.
In those two games for Arsenal – a 3-0 win over West Ham United and a defeat by the same scoreline at Crystal Palace – there was nothing Martínez could do to prevent the goals conceded and he was offered little protection by his defence.
The Argentine Under-23 international has the raw attributes to be a good keeper but is now lacking experience to back them up. The only way to get that is to leave his comfort zone at the Emirates Stadium where he is out of contract this summer.
The 30-year-old is another who has spent a large proportion of his career in England warming the substitutes’ bench and only made his Premier League debut for the Hornets in November – 11 months after joining from Sunderland – in a 6-1 defeat at Liverpool.
Pantilimon was only culpable for one of the four goals conceded after his introduction for the injured Gomes, pushing Daniel Sturridge’s shot out to Georginio Wijnaldum for the sixth.
Snapped up on a free transfer from the Black Cats last January, he has had to make do with cup action since and is unlikely to replace Gomes even if the veteran Brazilian leaves.
He is under contract at Vicarage Road until 2019 but unlikely to command much of a fee.
Currently on the books at Villa Park as deputy to Johnstone, Mark Bunn has been a perennial number two throughout his career in the Premier League and Championship, playing second fiddle for Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and now Villa.
He enjoyed a four-game run in the side in December and early January after Bruce had dropped Gollini and before the arrival of Johnstone from Manchester United.
In that time Bunn did little wrong, conceding three goals and making 13 saves, but the 32-year-old is clearly not in Bruce’s thinking on the basis he felt the need to recruit a keeper in January.
Did Villa loan Johnstone to fill the gap until Jed Steer is fit and can become our no. 1?
— Heather (@HeatherG_) February 20, 2017
Third choice at Aston Villa, Steer followed former boss Paul Lambert from from Norwich City in 2013. He has suffered an achilles injury this term, forcing him out of contention.
Now 24 and with the benefit of first-team experience from loan spells with Huddersfield Town (three times), Doncaster Rovers and Yeovil Town, Steer looks the more likely of Villa’s current keepers to get the nod.
He has 80 league starts to his name – just less than half as many as Bunn who is eight years his senior – with the majority of those coming in the Championship.
An England youth international at Under-16, -17 and -19 level, Steer’s chance – if it is ever going to come – is next season.