If team selection had been his own responsibility instead of coach Slaven Bilić’s, Adrián probably couldn’t have picked a worse game for his return. Losing five goals in your first game back would test the character of any goalkeeper and it’s going to be interesting to see how the former Real Betis custodian responds.
It’s been a tough two months for Adrián. Since moving from Spain in 2013, he’d been a Hammers regular between the posts until dropped by Slaven Bilić in November. Brought in on Friday night as one of three changes in West Ham’s starting line-up against Manchester City, Adrián was quickly back in the spotlight.
Although left to face the City attackers on several one-to-one situations, Adrián looked steady enough after his extended period out of the team. He pulled off some important reflex saves; particularly late on from Kun Agüero and marked his return to the side with an early stop from David Silva by using his feet.
There wasn’t much that could be done about the penalty for City’s opener, though; and with the pressure on West Ham’s defence for most of the game, Adrián had his hands full right from the start. Despite the result, it’s hard to single out the Hammer’s goalkeeper for adverse criticism; but that’s what tends to happen when you see five-nil scores like the one on Friday.
The automatic assumption is to point the finger at the last line of defence and yet it would be wrong to blame Adrián for the heavy defeat.
Sure, he may have hesitated in coming for the cross that led to the own goal by team mate Håvard Nordtveit but that’s the kind of timing that only comes with playing regularly at that level. You don’t get the type of sharpness needed for first team action by playing in the reserves; and that leaves coach Slaven Bilić with a major headache. Does he stick with Adrián or bring back Darren Randolph?
Football can be a harsh game. In Adrián’s case no there will have been no allowances made for his lack of first team football over the past few weeks; or the fact that the occasional lapse is usually tolerated for returning outfield players. That doesn’t apply to the goalkeepers.
They’re expected to perform to their best without exception and there’s no chance of being allowed to ease yourself back into the team and certainly not at that level. Any mistakes are likely to result in a goal.
It’s often said that the ‘keepers work harder when they’re out of the side; they don’t get the days off that the others do and follow a gruelling schedule. For Adrián, it will have been hard work training every day with goalkeeping coach Chris Woods and knowing all the time that he wasn’t going to be first choice when the squad list went up.
Over the past few weeks Adrián’s resolve will have been tested to the full; and even more so at this time of year when all the talk is of the transfer window and who’s likely to be moving on. Reports would suggest that Adrián’s place at the club is under threat and that Slaven Bilić would even prefer to bring in another goalkeeper.
Now the big question is whether Slaven Bilić will stick with the Sevillano in the weeks to come or if Republic of Ireland star Darren Randolph will be recalled in his place.
There’s a hard week of graft ahead before Crystal Palace visit this coming weekend; and everyone involved is going to be feeling the tension after the recent results. I’m sure Adrián will be the first to admit that he hasn’t had the best of seasons up to now but he’s desperate to regain and consolidate his place in the West Ham side.
He’ll be disappointed to say the least if he finds himself back on the bench after being left so cruelly exposed for most of the ninety minutes last Friday.