Pre-season is not a time for panic, but it is the time for prudent planning.
Whilst it’s easy to get sucked into the mindlessness of friendlies, wasting ones time analysing the lumbering performances of no-hopers like Micah Richards, there are subtler issues to monitor.
Villa’s ongoing challenge of maintaining a reliable and permanent figure between the sticks being a central one.
Sam Johnstone’s arrival is a welcome [loan] addition, but it does little to address the issue of “permanency” in the goalkeeping department.
We can, perhaps naively, grip the notion that Johnstone will improve us and become a Villa player should we achieve promotion. However, the reality is that any head turning performances would inevitably see things pan out very differently.
Indeed, it would be interesting to how any “first refusal” opportunity would be for Villa should we fail to get out of The Championship or if Johnstone’s resolve were tested by a better placed club.
Johnstone does though bring a little continuity from last season & lesson the impact of yet another new face needing to gel.
Whilst this blog detailed his early difficulties in a Villa side that under-performed triumphantly between January & March 2017, few could overlook the steady improvement towards the latter end of the campaign.
Such improvement is to be welcomed but it would be naive to overlook that much more needs to be done to address Villa’s goalkeeping black hole.
It’s something that has been repeatedly raised on the Podcast and it’s a firm belief of this blog that a second competent goalkeeper is essential to our progress. Any injury, ban or change of circumstances at Johnstone’s parent club would see Villa incredibly exposed in a key area of the pitch at a time which could least afford it.
This isn’t a new problem, indeed it’s one which extends back many seasons as Villa lumbered on with the diminishing figure of Brad Guzan.
Throw into this mix the huge error of judgement by Di Matteo relying upon rookie Pierluigi Gollini – along with our incomprehensible persistence with the wholly inadequate Mark Bunn.
Despite the numbers, there is an abject lack of competition for the number 1 jersey.
Jed Steer, arguably the Gary Gardner of goalkeeping, is also heavily linked to leave Villa Park.
Steer’s Villa career has to date amounted to next to nothing. A smattering of loan moves and injuries being the only points of note since he signed in 2013. 2013 is an absolute age ago; meaning it’s no surprise that the former Norwich keeper is linked with a switch to Charlton of League 1.
And dare we throw yet another inexperienced youngster to the lions in the form of 19 year old Matija Sarkic? Surely not.
And so we are left to wonder why we remain in such a needlessly exposed position?
Is it that Villa cannot lure a decent keeper willing to play second fiddle to a loanee?
Is it that we cannot accommodate another keeper until a fee or wages are freed up elsewhere?
Or are we simply playing a game of chance with one of the most important positions on the pitch?