KIRKLAND: A COSTLY ENTERPRISE
By Rupert Webster
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Kirkland made his debut for Coventry this season, stepping into Swedish international Magnus Hedman's boots in the 2-1 win over Tottenham. But it was in his next game, against Chelsea, that the youngster really made an impression. He was dismissed for bringing down Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the penalty area after just 21 minutes, although whether he actually made contact with the Dutch striker is questionable.
City went on to lose that game 6-1. But Kirkland has certainly bounced back. He has impressed with his decision-making and some of the reflex saves that the youngster has made have been of the highest order. Overall, Kirkland has stopped 40 shots this term, and he appears to have grown in confidence with each one.
Particularly impressive has been Kirkland's shot stopping from long-range shots. He has saved 92% of the efforts fired on his goal from outside the area. This is a better ratio than more established keepers such as Chelsea's Ed De Goey and Arsenal's David Seaman, as well as other prodigies such as Paul Robinson and Nicky Weaver.
However, Kirkland has been less effective when blocking close range shots. He has stopped just 55% of the shots fired at his goal from inside the box - the fifth worst rating in the Premiership and significantly lower than his rival for the Coventry shirt, Hedman, who has saved 64%.
Kirkland's handling skills have also been less than impressive at times. He has claimed only 89% of the crosses that he has gone to catch - the second-lowest rating in the division.
It is worth noting that while Kirkland's overall saves-to-shots ratio of 71% is not one of the Premiership's best, it is still better than both Liverpool keeper Sander Westerveld and Arsenal shot stopper Alex Manninger have managed.
Given those figures, it is understandable that both Gerard Houllier and Arsene Wenger are on the hunt for a keeper. But whether Kirkland is currently the answer to their prayers is questionable, certainly at the £8 million that Sky Blues chairman Bryan Richardson is reported to be asking for.