Jack Butland’s performance for Stoke City in their 1-0 victory over Arsenal on Saturday has left many fairly certain of England’s no.1 at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
The 24-year-old was simply terrific, making a series of excellent saves to deny the Gunners.
But it wasn’t just Butland’s saves that stood out. His catches, position and distribution were all terrific.
If it’s just a competition between Butland and Joe Hart to start in Russia, then the Stoke man is certainly in the better position so far.
He’s made nine saves this season and conceded just once, while Hart has made only three goals and conceded seven times for West Ham United.
They both face competition from Everton’s Jordan Pickford for the honour but Butland is in the driving seat.
It was new signing Jese Rodriguez, who arrived this week in a loan move from Paris Saint-Germain, who will attract headlines, the Spaniard scoring the only goal to sink Arsenal, but Butland has received plenty of plaudits on Twitter.
Butland's incredible pass
One moment that summed up his talent came in the first half when he managed to locate Mame Biram Diouf with a long pass.
Butland was on the edge of his penalty box, so his pass didn’t quite reach 100 yards - the pitch at the Bet365 Stadium is 109 yards in length, according to football-stadiums.co.uk - but it’s still an incredible effort.
Check it out below.
Not bad, that.
Hughes responded to the critics
After the win, Stoke boss Mark Hughes expressed his delight at silencing the critics who have suggested he hasn’t done enough in the transfer market.
“Maybe because of the fixtures we are facing during the early stages of the season, some people saw thought we would be an easy target,” he told the media following the 1-0 win, per Stoke’s website.
“They asked questions of our ambition, myself as a manager and the players, and for me, that has been hugely unfair.
“We have had some criticism because we haven’t splashed millions of pounds of new players, which is bang out of order in my view because our owners have made huge investments in this club.”
Nobody’s criticising Stoke now, even if many thought the Gunners would slip up at the Bet365 Stadium.
They have a nasty habit of doing so.