El Centrocampista

VALENCIA AND THEIR KEEPER CONUNDRUM – Diego Alves or Vicente Guaita for Emery?

Luckily for Valencia supporters, due to squad depth there’s room for debate over almost every starting eleven position, coach Unai Emery has two players to pick from in nearly all areas of the pitch.

In fact you’ll struggle to find two Valencia fans with the same first choice eleven and one debate that crops up more than any other is who plays in goal.

Brazilian Diego Alves and Valencianista Vicente Guaita have been rotated by Emery since the former joined from Almeria last summer for a fee of around 3 million Euros. Since then Alves has appeared 23 times and Guaita 15. Just over half of the Brazilian’s appearances have been in the Champions League and Copa Del Rey, most notably in the first group game against Chelsea where he produced a string of phenomenal saves which allowed Roberto Soldado to go on and equalise from the penalty spot with 3 minutes left. 12 of Guaita’s 15 run outs have come in the league where he has matured into a consistent performer prompting debate over who should be Valencia’s number one.

Those league and cup roles switched recently as Alves put in a magnificent performance despite conceding five against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, spending the majority of the game as Valencia’s only player to bother defending against Barcelona and Messi. Guaita put in an equally if not more impressive performance when Los Che travelled to the England to face Stoke in the first leg of their Europa League clash, he returned to Spain with a clean sheet after an extremely encouraging and commanding performance.

These two opponents showcased both keepers’ strengths. Vicente Guaita, quite simply bossed it in the air for Valencia against Stoke; despite only recently turning 25 his ability dealing with balls in the air is comparable to any goalkeeper in Europe, decision making from corners and crosses is Guaita’s forte dominating his penalty area with brawn and brains.

Alves’s abilities come to prominence when he’s on his goal line, like he was for the majority of the game against Barcelona, the Brazilian had 23 shots aimed his way on the night, 15 of them he had to deal with and 5 were let in, but as anyone who watches Barcelona on a regular basis will tell you, the Catalans chances are more about quality than quantity, never more so than against Valencia where despite the amount of goals let in, Diego Alves was far and away his teams man of the match.

Consistency is the key for many fans of Guaita, in a team that does rotate frequently; many believe the calming and organisational strengths that the Spaniard brings every game are of paramount importance, not to mention he’s already in their good books due to the fact he’s been at the club his whole career bar a loan spell away to Recreativo Huelva. This season he has kept nine clean sheets in all competitions, three more than Alves.

Alves is considered somewhat more erratic than his counterpart, saves and decisions that stop an almost certain goal will on occasion be followed by mistakes that leave Los Che fans with their heads in their hands. Alves will often win Valencia games but the opposite will also apply on occasion. For Brazil however, in his two caps so far he is yet to concede a goal, aiding his team to 2-0 wins on both occasions. Guaita is yet to appear for Spain but the competition is fiercer to a huge degree, he sits in a queue behind the likes of Casillas, Reina, Valdes and Diego Lopez.

There’s little question if you could combine Guaita’s consistency and aerial ability with Alves’ reactions and athleticism in a single player, Valencia would have one of the best goalkeepers out there, but due to their respective ages of 25 and 26, the debate will no doubt continue for a long time, until one of the two improve their game to the extent they can make the position their own.

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