Following the 5-4 loss to Liverpool at Carrow Road yesterday, I have seen countless amounts of Norwich fans calling for John Ruddy to come back in goal for the Canaries.
Declan Rudd has been Norwich’s goalkeeper for almost two months now and only a few games ago was being heralded as one of the best performers. Yet, because our dreadful defensive displays have cost us a lot of goals some fans are calling for him to be dropped.
It is bad enough that our consistency (in terms of selection) at the back is bad enough. We don’t need Alex Neil changing our goalkeeper every five matches as well.
John Ruddy was not dropped based off one or two games, as fans are using as an excuse to drop Rudd. Ruddy was taken out of the team because of a number of high-profile errors and sub-par performances in virtually every match he has played this season, which culminated in the loss of many points.
Ruddy made a number of errors last season in the Championship that were ironed over by the amount of goals Norwich scored. However, in the Premier League he has been exposed. Norwich were not scoring as many goals and the soft goals Ruddy let in were all the more evident.
As you Ruddy lovers are going to want evidence of this, here are a few examples that all happened in home matches last season against Charlton, Rotherham, Birmingham and Derby. There were plenty of other examples but those four stood out for me. Charlton at home he let in a tame low effort somehow beat him at his near post from around 25-yards. Against Rotherham he gave away a silly penalty as he was slow off his line (something I will get to later). Birmingham at home he managed to concede when a shot was hit slightly to the left of him and he was unable to get down quick enough and it squirmed through his hands. Finally against Derby, it was possibly the worst of the lot. A corner was swung in and he managed to catch it with one hand and then proceed to drop it into the back of the net.
He had no real competition for his place last term as there were no cup games in which Rudd could have impressed and with the team winning a lot of games, his errors were overlooked by many. Yet, this season has been a very telling tale of how Ruddy’s Norwich career has spiraled.
Even from the opening day Ruddy was exposed. Against Crystal Palace at home I feel he should have done better with their first two goals, especially the first one. He was also beaten against Bournemouth with a header from 12-yards that wasn’t even in the corner and at a comfortable height.
There were a number of goals in the early parts of the season that I feel Ruddy should have done better with but I am going to skip straight to the ones where it was blatantly clear. West Ham away. 2-1 up in the final moments of the game, which would have been a massive win for the Canaries. What you want in the closing stages of a win is for your goalkeeper to take a cross and relieve the pressure. Instead of doing this, Ruddy dropped a simple catch and West Ham scored to make it 2-2 in the last minute of the game.
He did the exact same thing against Manchester City at the Etihad. Norwich battled so hard all game to earn a 1-1 draw and then another routine cross was put towards Ruddy, he dropped the ball before running into no-mans land and Norwich ended up conceding a penalty. Russell Martin gave it away for handball, but I place no blame on him as it was going in anyway and he was just trying to stop Ruddy’s howler costing Norwich the game; which it did in the end.
Ruddy has averaged around one save per goal conceded in the Premier League this season, which is the worst in the division. When you are battling towards the bottom of the table you need a ‘keeper who makes a lot of saves, Ruddy doesn’t as he is simply not good enough.
In fact, the only clean sheet Ruddy has managed this season was against Swansea at home. A game where Swansea had zero shots on target in the whole match. It took a team to not have any shots at Ruddy for him not to concede, it was the only realistic scenario in which he kept a clean sheet.
Now onto Rudd. He has been biding his time for years now to get a chance and impressed in the Capital One Cup several times for the Canaries. He warranted his chance and grasped it with both hands. Rudd was player of the month for December at Norwich and rightly so. He made a number of important stops to help Norwich to gain points against Manchester United, Everton and Aston Villa. He also started 2016 with a clean sheet against Southampton.
However, following the losses to Stoke, Bournemouth and Liverpool, which resulted in 11 goals conceded, Rudd’s place has come into question. How on earth that has come about I don’t know. To honestly think that Ruddy should come back into the side, especially after he had a chance to impress against Manchester City and produced another howler, is just a bit deluded.
One of Ruddy’s biggest flaws, if not his biggest, is that he is far too slow to get down to shots. My theory is that his thigh injury a few years ago is the reason for this. He doesn’t seem anywhere near as sharp in his movement as he was, say, three years ago. He doesn’t seem to be able to reach the corner, bottom or top, and concedes a lot of goal because of this.
Ruddy’s overall reaction time and sharpness really is just below-par. His speed of his line is very slow and has cost City on multiple occasions. This was highlighted when Rudd started playing and was quick off his line to stop one-on-ones and clear from behind the defence.
Even in the last few matches, there were no massive mistakes from Rudd that led to goals and it really has been Norwich’s woeful defending that has led to the amount of goals conceded.
Rudd is clearly far more athletic than Ruddy and can actually reach the corners to make saves, his save early on from Marko Arnautovic against Stoke highlights this. He didn’t grow up in the England youth teams for nothing and has the potential to be a massive player going forward for Norwich, I am just praying Neil doesn’t ruin that.
Norwich face Tottenham at Carrow Road a week from Tuesday and I have seen a lot of fans calling for Ruddy to regain his place in the side. Ironically, Rudd’s best game in a Norwich shirt was probably against Spurs, as he made a number of top saves at White Hart Lane.
I really don’t fancy Ruddy’s chances against Dele Alli and Harry Kane, or any players in the Premier League for that matter, and think any notion to bring him back to the side should be swiftly quashed by Alex Neil.
We have already seen that Alex Neil likes dropping the standout stars to bring back players who used to be good and have since lost their way. Take yesterday for example when he dropped the ever-impressive Ryan Bennett and replaced him with Russell Martin, who went on to have the worst central defensive match of the season so far.
So, I really wouldn’t put it past Neil for putting Ruddy back in goal against Spurs. Yet, if he does do it and Ruddy fails, which based off of the last two years is likely, then I will really start to lose my patience with the Scotsman.
I do still have faith that Alex Neil will make the right call and keep Rudd in the team but there is still that lingering feeling that he may change it. Certainly after the silly decision he made with Bennett and Martin yesterday.