Romero: Criticism's a reality for keepers

Sunday 19 July 2020 08:00

Sergio Romero is used to big-game pressure. After all, he's played in a World Cup final for Argentina and the Europa League final for Manchester United.

This is a man who has kept 11 clean sheets in 15 games this season and is undeniably one of the most reliable number-two goalies in the business.

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted on Saturday that he has yet to pick his team, if the South American gets the nod to start in today's Emirates FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, to continue his run of playing in every game in the competition this term, he will be ready for only his second outing after lockdown.

At the other end of the pitch, Blues boss Frank Lampard has his own decision to make, between Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga and another Argentinian in Willy Caballero. Like most keepers, they have had to face some criticism in 2019/20 and Romero accepts this just goes with the territory.

Kepa or Willy Caballero could play on Sunday as both bosses have decisions to make in goal.

With such an intense focus on keepers in post-match analysis, you only have to witness examples when Steven Bergwijn scored past David De Gea with a fierce strike and Wilfried Zaha's thunderbolt flew past Kepa, to wonder if some of the reaction is lacking an in-depth knowledge of the profession, and certainly any sympathy.

"The reality is that if we look at all 11 players on the field, the only one out of these that might get criticism is the goalkeeper," Romero told us, in a video call from the Aon Training Complex. "After that, all the rest can get on with their jobs and they’ll hardly ever get any criticism.

“They’d have to really stand out to ever be criticised. On the other hand, with us, one mistake can cost us a goal which could lose us the game. But that’s what we were born for, to be goalkeepers, to give of our best and to overcome every situation.

“We train hard every day and we try and help out our team-mates whenever they need us in every single game.

“That is our reality.”

In relation to any criticisms of Kepa, in particular, Sergio believes the former Athletic Bilbao man has the quality and mentality to come through any rough patch and succeed at Stamford Bridge.

"He is a great goalkeeper," he said. "He’s a young guy and someone who can continue to improve and he will surely have the benefit of plenty of advice from those around him. And I’m sure he will get the best out of himself when he feels mentally prepared to not take criticism.

“But we don’t know who’ll be playing. It could be him or it could be Willy who plays. We will just try to concentrate on our own team and on what we can do as a group of players on the field. We’ve shown some real improvement throughout these last two months and so we will try to make sure that our fans can, once again, be excited to be in another final, which is really where United deserve to always be, in every cup final and fighting it out on the last day of the season to win the title."

Romero says belief in the camp is high, especially after another hard-fought win at Crystal Palace on Thursday, and he knows that, whoever keeps goal at Wembley, will be up for the occasion, even without any supporters present.

"We won," he said of the Selhurst Park victory. "We have a very difficult three points in our pocket and we need to think about the semi-final against Chelsea. It's a big match, Wembley, and we need to keep going and try to go to the final because United need this and, also, our fans need this.

“You know [who plays] is a question for the manager. We are ready - always. We train to play. We are a team, a group. If I play, I know David [De Gea], Lee [Grant], Joel [Pereira], Bish [Nathan Bishop] are all happy. If one of them plays, I am happy.

“We are a team. We need to think of United and what is best for the team and the group. We need to win - this is the truth.”

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