SUNDERLAND have had some great goalkeepers over the years, and after watching Costel Pantilimon in his last two games, I’m hoping the Romanian international will go right up there with the best of them.
The goalkeeping position is probably the area on the pitch where Sunderland are strongest at the moment, with last year’s Player of the Season, Vito Mannone, now having to settle for a place on the bench, and with a good young prospect in Jordan Pickford learning his trade and gaining experience on loan at Bradford City.
Mannone paid the price for letting 10 goals go past him in two games, but he was unlucky in that most of those goals conceded were the result of incompetent defending in front of him, and I still believe he is a good goalkeeper.
However, Mannone’s misfortune gave Pantilimon his chance, and his appearance in the team has coincided with a return to form for Sunderland, with four points from two tough games against Crystal Palace and Everton, where he only conceded two goals, one a penalty and one a freak own goal.
His huge height advantage should allow him to dominate his 18-yard area, which is such an important part of a goalkeeper’s game.
Most defenders don’t like their goalkeeper to just stay on the line, as it increases their workload, and puts the back four under much more pressure.
I’ve heard criticism that Pantilimon should have saved Leighton Baines’ penalty for Everton, but that is really harsh, and if not saving a spot kick is the main criticism levelled at him over his two games, then he must be doing something right.
Pantilimon is just starting his Sunderland career, and he needs more than two good games to prove himself and permanently gain the No1 spot from Mannone, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen of him so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops.