The promoted sides from last season all came up with degrees of optimism based on the success of Norwich, Swansea and QPR. The two teams who finished in the automatic spots were the most optimistic of the three as Southampton and Reading considered it possible to carry their magnificent form into the Premier League and secure safety. While play-off winners West Ham United have taken to life back in the big time with consummate ease the two clubs from south of London have found it all a torrid experience.
Reading are still searching for their first Premier League victory and despite Southampton running the Manchester clubs close and dealing out a hammering to Aston Villa their attacking positivity is only rivalled by their defensive naivety. At the moment they would both appear to be safe relegation bets.
One of the most testing issues for all three promoted clubs has been the position of goalkeeper. West Ham lost Robert Green to QPR but brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen from Bolton Wanderers and Stephen Henderson of Portsmouth to good effect.
Reading suffered a similar issue when the form of last year’s heroic stopper Adam Federici completely deserted him. Mistakes in his first few games of the season and it appeared that the bulky Australian was considered redundant for the time being. Letting in seven goals against Arsenal on his return could not have done him any favours.
Their situation is mirrored at Southampton where last season’s stalwart Kelvin Davis struggled to readapt to life in the Premier League. His defence of his near-post, the golden rule in goalkeeping, was terrible and Premier League strikers were feasting on his poor form.
It left both Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins in a huge dilemma, who do we replace them with?
Adkins at first went with young stopper Paolo Gazzaniga, who despite the odd iffy moment seemed to do himself justice between the sticks. His shot stopping was exemplary and his distribution bordering on world-class. McDermott also went with youth as Alex McCarthy was given the jersey as an immediate replacement for ‘Fedders’. Again he had his off moments, as is to be expected by a young goalkeeper thrust into Premier League action, but in the long term it now seems the correct decision; his man-of-the-match performance against QPR on Sunday was proof in the pudding.
They could have turned to the more experienced former Arsenal keeper Stuart Taylor but figured giving a real chance to a potential long term option as a better contingency to deal with their number one goalkeeper issue. Southampton on the other hand signed Artur Boruc.
At Celtic he was undoubtedly a class operator however just to look at him you can see his best days are behind him. He appears sluggish, off the boil and disinterested in the job. He also brings controversy, reports he threw a water bottle at home fans have not helped his cause.
With all that in mind has Adkins made a mistake with the signing of Boruc? Surely his better option would have been to give Gazzaniga, a very talented Argentine who started his career with Valencia, a serious run-out in the first team.
Boruc needs to improve very quickly if he is to be continued in his number one slot. At the moment Southampton can simply not afford to have a half-hearted stopper defending a goal facing a barrage of shots.
It could be the hindsight at the end of relegation for The Saints come May.
Should Paolo Gazzaniga be given a more prolonged chance in the first-team?
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