Javier Hernandez was quoted this week saying that he believes that David De Gea will be one of the best goalkeepers in the world in two years time. Sadly Javier, I don’t agree.
Much has been made of David De Gea’s one and a half year stint at Old Trafford. The Spaniard has had a tough time seeking sympathy with the British press, who seem to be on his back at the drop of a hat (or the drop of a football).
Those who defend De Gea will highlight his ability of shot-stopping. There’s no denying it, De Gea is an exceptional shot-stopper, in fact so far this season, his shots/saved ratio is better than Joe Hart’s! But still, De Gea is knocked, criticised and laughed at. The fact is that there is much more to goalkeeping than shot-stopping and reflexes. Sure, shot-stopping is probably the single most important thing keeper should be good at, but you’d be a fool to think that shot-stopping is all there is to standing between the sticks. In reality, there’s much more to it and it’s in all the other areas where De Gea and many others fall short and will inevitably prevent him from becoming one of the best in the world as Chicharito rather optimistically predicts.
As I said, there is more to goalkeeping than saving shots. The top goalkeepers will not only be good shot-stoppers but will be good distributors, they will be able to properly organise their defence, usually by barking orders, they will be good at coming for crosses/corners and they will be good at positioning themselves. Aside from shot stopping, can you really say that David De Gea excels in other attributes? Not really.
Too many times we’ve seen him throw a weak punch, like the one which lead to Clint Dempsey’s 93rd minute equaliser at White Hart Lane a few weeks ago, we’ll see him fail to come for crosses around or even within his 6-yard area and we’ll see him getting pushed around by the opposition too much. He lacks presence, he certainly doesn’t command his box, much like the great Peter Schmeichel did all too famously under the Old Trafford Spotlights throughout the 90’s. Sadly, David De Gea looks his polar opposite at times. He looks timid and unconfident. That’s not to say that self-confidence is everything. Just look at Pepe Reina. He oozes confidence yet is as error prone as his Spanish teammate. And take Petr Cech as an example too. He comes across as timid, nervous and a little bit weak and has had his share of problems in the past. The tabloid press got after him, but he pulled through, mainly due to the fact that he has the abilities of an all-round goal keeper, not simply a shot-stopper. The fact that De Gea doesn’t have an aura of self-confidence simply means that the press will prey on him even more, and from then on it’s a domino effect, it’s hard to get a confidence boost with the tabloids nailed on your back.
Over the past 18 months, De Gea has shown little sign of ever becoming a fearless guardian of the net, he looks just as shy as he looked on his debut in the Community Shield in 2011 and he still fails to come from crosses, still fails to distribute the ball adequately and still fails to give his defenders a rollicking when they deserve one! He can pull off as many one-handed reflex saves as he likes, but it would change the fact that he’s still severely lacking in all of the other areas which make a good goalkeeper a great one.
De Gea has enough talent to survive in United’s team, but he will always remain a liability. He’s still young yes, but goalkeepers more than any position rely on confidence, and this guy constantly looks short of it. Manchester United’s alleged interest in Asmir Begovic suggests that Man United are concerned and are perhaps thinking about moving in another direction.
Until we see De Gea confidently grabbing balls out of the air, assertively and cleanly punching balls away and out of danger and demonstrating his ability to shout at and organise his defence thoroughly, as well as pulling off the miraculous saves that he does, he will always remain a great shot-stopper, but not a great goalkeeper. Of course, I’ve never met the man, I haven’t been to Carrington to watch him, but I suspect that David De Gea is shy and quiet, and given that he’s also pretty slight in figure, there has to be huge doubts over whether he can actually overcome his lack of grit. In this writer’s opinion, fat chance.