This Premier League season has seen newly promoted side Sheffield United take it by storm. The Blades stand at seventh position in the league with 43 points in their kitty from 28 games. One of the main reasons for their strong showing has been their defensive line marshalled by their goalkeeper Dean Henderson. The Manchester United loanee has been brilliant this season in making sure that Sheffield's defenders have not been embarrassed whenever they have made mistakes.
Sheffield are fifth in the list of most clean sheets (10) in the league, ahead of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur. Henderson has played a big role in this. His decisiveness between the sticks has been one of his strongest points. Sheffield have a commendable average of conceding only 0.89 goals per game.
No doubt Henderson is protected by defenders of the stature of George Baldock, John Lundstram, John Egan, Jack O'Connell, and Enda Stevens in front of him, but his ability to concentrate for long periods of time and stop shots from close distances with his quick reflexes have held him in good stead. His stellar showing has led to a quandary for Manchester United, for they are unable to decide whether they want to bring him back to Old Trafford next season or not.
Henderson has saved a penalty this season and has sixteen high claims to his name. He also has eleven punches to boast of and although nowhere near the top of these individual record lists, Henderson's impact on Sheffield United cannot be ruled out only because of a lack of numbers. He is now among the front-runners for taking up the England first-choice goalkeeper's job especially as the incumbent Jordan Pickford has had a poor season.
Among his various rivals for the England number one's job is Burnley's Nick Pope. Pope has had eleven clean sheets this season, one better than Henderson although his club is lying three positions lower than the latter's in the table (39 points off 29 matches). Pope too, alike Henderson is protected by his burly centre-backs James Tarkowski and Ben Mee who are willing to lay it all for the cause of the Clarets. Burnley manager Sean Dyche has relied on him heavily.
Pope has conceded more goals than Henderson (40 to 22) but has made significantly more saves (89 to 70). Pope makes an average of around 3.10 saves per game although there is only a 68% chance of his saves being succesful. He has faced four penalties so far and managed to save one, similar to Henderson although the latter has faced only two. Pope has played 29 matches this season and has a significant number of 39 high claims.
The 27-year old Pope has been around for a long time and has also earned England call-ups in the past. He is more experienced than Henderson and his shot stopping ability is one of his major strengths. He can be next in line to wear the England goalkeeper's jersey as Pickford has had an indfiferent season.
It doesn't matter who among these two promising goalkeepers gets the nod to be England's number one but what is certain is that this duo will be around for a long time to serve English football.Published 23 Mar 2020, 12:37 IST