‘You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain’. The words couldn’t be any more apt than they are for Tim Howard right now.
Timothy Matthew Howard has been Everton’s No1 for nine years, and in the main he has been a solid goalkeeper who could be relied on to make top saves and brought an air of calm to the back line. However for 18 months now he has been on a steady decline and he has now become a laughing stock among the Everton faithful.
Those two instances where he failed to come and dominate his area at both crosses at the Emirates on Saturday evening was the final straw for most Evertonians including myself. He just doesn’t instill any confidence in the players behind him and teams now target him as the area to get success against us. As mentioned before we could always rely on Tim to make a top save to keep us in games, but unless the shot is directly at him all he manages to do is palm the ball out into traffic nowadays. He use to have great athletic ability which enabled him to get to shots he shouldn’t have no right to get. Unfortunately due to his age he doesn’t have that agility any more. He just guesses now in the hope of going the right way, but most of the time he’s found laying on the floor (see United’s 1st and 3rd last week).
So where do we go from here? Our biggest issue is that Roberto Martinez still believes he is good enough. If he thought otherwise he would’ve replaced him last January when he said he was looking for a long term goalkeeper. My biggest bug bare with Martinez is his blind faith in some of his ‘favorites’. He did it with Barry, Naismith and Howard last season and it seems he is doing the same again this year with Howard.
Going through this season Howard has been responsible or had a part in 10 goals we could’ve prevented. As mentioned previously the two conceded against Arsenal is ‘the straw that broke the camels back’ as far as I’m concerned. On Tuesday Joel will come in for Howard, as the Spaniard is the Cup goalkeeper, which will take the pressure off the American but should give Joel the opportunity to stake his claim for a regular first team place. For me Joel needs a run of 10 plus games in the first team, to show what he can offer. Currently he can’t do any worse than Howard. After his extended run in the side from Boxing Day to beginning of February he was starting to show us just why Martinez brought him to the club. Just as he was showing us how good he could be, Howard became fit again and was put straight back into the first team. What signal does that send to the players?!
As previously mentioned Joel needs to be given between now and the new year to stake his claim. If he doesn’t impress then a new goalkeeper needs to top priority. So where do the club go for a medium to long term replacement? Well the scouts from Cahill’s Corner Flag have been out and have generated a realistic shortlist.
A goalkeeper who will be available come January will be Manchester United’s Victor Valdes. The Spaniard has won everything there is to win in the game and comes with a wealth of experience. He would slot in and suit the Martinez style of building from the back as his distribution with both feet is excellent. He is 33 so would offer us a short term solution and due to being frozen out at United I’m hoping he’d be looking for a chance to prove himself in the Premier League. Currently without a squad number and although on £60k a week, his contract runs out in June 2016 so a transfer fee would be minimal and a deal should be easy to agree. It is also worth noting that he shares the same agent as Gerard Deulofeu, make of that what you will.
A keeper who goes quietly about his job and someone who has always done well against Everton is Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon. The giant stopper stands at 6 foot 8, an imperious keeper to say the least. Pantilimon marshals his six yard box really well (something Howard never does). He’s not afraid to come and clear everything out and will punch if need be. His huge frame means beating him one on one isn’t as easy as Howard currently makes it look! He managed 13 clean sheets last season in 30 games, which when you consider the defence he is playing behind, is a pretty decent return. The Secretary of Defence only managed 10! The big Romanian is 28, which is a good age for a proven Premier League keeper. He is contracted to the Black Cats until June 2018 but is only reportedly earning £20k a week. So a bid in the region of £6-8 million should be enough to get a deal done.
Another keeper who’s struggled for playing time this season is Michel Vorm. Standing at 6 foot, the Dutch stopper is back up to Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. He has only managed 2 first team appearances this season and should be hungry for first team football. Similar to Valdes, Vorm is the wrong side of 30 but offers Premier League experience. Having been the mainstay in the Swansea side that did so well when they first got promoted. He is an excellent shot stopper and he has good distribution with both feet. He is contracted until June 2018 and the option of playing regular first team football would hopefully be a pull to leave the bright lights of London. Tottenham are well known to dive a hard bargain but a fee of around £5 – 7 million should be enough to prize him away.
A keeper I’ve watched develop from a far over the years is Kasper Schmeichel. A keeper who’s had to drop down as far as League 2 with Notts County. He’s since moved up through the leagues and is now Leicester City’s No.1. Similar to his Dad, he is an exceptional shot stopper and gets to shots he has no right to. At 27 he would offer us a long term successor to Howard and someone if given time, would get better, especially playing in front of better defenders. The only issue at present would with Leicester having such a good season, whether a move to EFC would appeal to him. I’d like to think it would. Of the keepers mentioned so far I’d imagine Schmeichel would command the biggest transfer fee. His contract expires in June 2018 and is one of Leicester’s higher earners on £30k a week.
There’s no doubt there are options out there that wont break the bank., I just hope Martinez realises that Tim Howard isn’t the answer any more. If he is I don’t want to contemplate what that question is?!
Come on you blues!