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Thumbs Down

Written By Justin on Monday, October 5, 2009 | 11:59:00 PM

I want to be supportive. I want to have belief. I want to uphold goalkeeper union bylaws, which state that you don't slag off other goalkeepers (especially when they're a million times better than you ever were, which is certainly the case here). But when you play at the highest level, criticism comes as part of the territory, which also happens to include huge wages. And for me it's simple: Ben Foster is simply not taking his chance to be the successor to Edwin Van der Sar between the posts at Old Trafford.

Every goalkeeper makes errors, but unfortunately for Ben, he is making them in a team chasing its fourth consecutive league title, with Fabio Capello sitting in the stands, and with Van der Sar rapidly approaching full fitness.

The English press has delighted in noting Ben's errors, specifically the poor decision to try to dribble a ball back into his box against City, a near post equalizer in the same game, and a failure to beat Kenwyne Jones to a floated cross. But for me, equally worrying would be goals which don't seem to be mistakes as much as limitations to Foster's game.

Although he has good footwork and excellent reflexes, I've noticed since he was at Watford that Foster struggles to get his body off the ground, either when jumping for crosses or diving. Andriy Arshavin's goal for Arsenal highlighted this, as did Darren Bent's opener for Sunderland. The latter might be harsh, but United fans are used to seeing Van der Sar deal with such shots with a minimum of fuss. The Dutchman is not an explosive shot stopper himself, but his excellent positioning, anticipation, and enormous wingspan make him difficult to beat. I frequently see Foster referred to as a "great shot stopper." I just don't see much evidence of it. He seems very ordinary at this by top flight standards.

Ben still has many supporters, but the only opinion that matters belongs to Sir Alex Ferguson. Van der Sar is back in training, United don't play again for nearly two weeks, and with a trip to Anfield looming in the not too distant future, it looks to me like Ben will have to wait for another chance to impress. This one has come and gone.


chris said...

Hey Justin - I wish you'd post more often! I'm one of those former keepers, probably much like yourself, who always focuses in on the keepers more than the goal scorers. Like my favorite part of the Fox Soccer Report is the saves of the week section.

I really enjoy your analysis and observations. But too few and far between!


Justin said...

Thanks for reading Chris. I've been slow lately because of an all consuming writing project, but will be posting a new article at least once a week. Thanks again!