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Mannone Ready For A Break?

Vito Mannone put in his two worst Sunderland performances in quick succession against Southampton and old club Arsenal, so is now the right time to take him out of the firing line?

Wojciech Szczesny consoles Vito Mannone after Saturday's final whistle
Wojciech Szczesny consoles Vito Mannone after Saturday's final whistle
Michael Regan

Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone was outstanding last season when helping Sunderland to eventual Premier League safety and a Capital One Cup final day out at Wembley, but his last two displays in the Black Cats side have cast doubt on his ability to recover from adversity.

Mannone joined for a bargain £2million in the summer of 2013 from Arsenal, having spent the best part of a decade as third-choice 'keeper under Arsene Wenger. He made a paltry 23 appearances in all competitions, aside from loan spells with Barnsley and Hull City, having moved from Atalanta as a 17-year-old kid.

Kieran Westwood was initially preferred by Paolo Di Canio in between the sticks, but Mannone took over when the Irishman got injured and he never looked back. The fans voted him their 'Player of the Year' thanks to his repeated heroics, which many observers believe made him the best goalie of those plying their trade in the Premier League last term.

Statistically, he proved his worth to the cause with an average of 4.52 saves per game, which was the highest of any regular goalkeeper in the top-flight during 2013/14. He was relied upon heavily by the defence in front of him and there's no doubt that he delivered.

However, his recent displays against Southampton - where he was part of an awful overall team showing - and Arsenal have raised question marks over whether it may be time to give Romanian giant Costel Pantilimon a chance to replace him.

On the face of it, two poor performances in a row would usually result in an outfield player being dropped to the bench, so why not a 'keeper who's suffered the same downturn in form?

It tends to be a tad different with that specialised position, though, where there's no hiding place and every single mistake is harshly punished. A striker can miss three or four good goalscoring opportunities, but he will keep getting other openings and it doesn't seem to frowned upon quite as much as when a stopper loses his head.

There are so many factors for Gus Poyet to consider when selecting his next eleven; it comes to down to the character of the player in question, the training levels of each of the goalkeepers in contention for a starting spot and whether it would benefit the team to leave Mannone out. Plus, on a personal level, would it be counter-productive to drop the current incumbent in terms of his confidence for the remainder of the campaign?

Two poor games don't suddenly mean that 26-year-old Mannone isn't good enough and his consistently brilliant shot-stopping throughout an eventful first year on Wearside musn't be forgotten altogether. Unfortunately, he can't live on past glories and there's an urgent requirement for the Lombardy native to rediscover his best.

It's only correct that Vito gets a chance to rectify the situation and hopefully his redemption will begin at Crystal Palace on Monday. I get the feeling that the former Italian under-21 international will benefit substantially from receiving a vote of confidence from Poyet by being allowed to get out onto the field to put matters straight. What's more, he also needs some help from his team-mates who've often put him in some tough situations.

There's a possibility that consigning him to the bench could break his spirit and do more harm than good. However, his less than satisfactory spell must be put to an end swiftly, otherwise he will leave his manager with absolutely no option but to demote him.


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