Son of a Gun!

Musings on Arsenal Football Club by a Singaporean Gooner (Gooner since 1988)

Goalkeepers for the season ahead July 14, 2009

Filed under: Goalkeepers,Manuel Almunia — Son of a Gunner @ 10:00 pm

Arsenal snippets of the day:

First, the ridiculous rumour of the entire summer: Patrick Vieira could be moving back to North London, in the white of Tottenham! A sensational headline that is bound to attract tons of hits. Only that it won’t happen. I have read a bit of Vieira’s autobiography and he has a genuine love for Arsenal. He knows who Paul Davis is and he even recognise him in person. Who dares to bet against me that Adebayor won’t know who Michael Thomas is? I seriously do not think this transfer will happen, even if the reports look as genuine as they come these days. Which isn’t saying much anyway.

Next, we have slightly more exciting news: Adebayor is wanted by Manchester City, and they are willing to offer a price in the region of 20-25 million pounds. Which is actually a fair evaluation as they paid 14 million for Bellamy. I hope we can get 25 million for him. True, Adebayor is a very good player and a proven goalscorer. But as I have mentioned in this post, he just isn’t worth the trouble anymore.
25 million will do nicely, and as reports go, Marouane Chamakh is already being planned to replace the Togonator.

I do not understand why City is collecting strikers as if they are some limited edition Star Wars memorabilia. It is believed they have signed Carlos Tevez from United and they have already secured Roque Santa Cruz earlier in the summer. There is not to mention they still have a massive number of strikers and that is despite Daniel Sturridge leaving for Chelsea. I think Manchester City’s way is a way that doesn’t plan for the future. Before the mad money came in at City, they boast of some of the best home-grown talent in the league. Michael Johnson, Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Daniel Sturridge, Shawn Wright-Philips, Joe Hart, Kasper Schmeichel etc. When the mad money came in, they loan a very talented Kasper Schmeichel out, put Joe Hart on the bench and brought in a very good but very old Shy Given. Madness.

Don’t they realise the 4+4 home-grown players ruling? By signing big-names and superstars, they are forcing their homegrown talents out of the club. In the not-too-distant future, they will realise how wrong they are right now.

Anyway, moving on (this is an Arsenal blog after all). The first post of my first 16 for the new season ahead, on our goalkeepers. Let’s take a look at our options:

Manuel Almunia– When Almunia first joined the club, I have never heard of him. He was a journeyman player who has played for many clubs, several on-loan. I knew he has an impressive frame and he looks to possess the necessary physical traits to be a top-class keeper. I remember one of the very first games he played was the famous 2-2 draw with Chelsea right after Roman Abramovich took over, the same match in which the world first witnessed Cesc and Flamini in the centre of the park. He did well overall that night. But who can forget his howler against Manchester United in his first season with the club when he let the ball through his hands? Also his crazy mistimed runs out of the box in his early days makes Lehmann look incredibly safe in his most eccentric games.

He then put in quite a performance when he came on for Lehmann in the fateful Champions League final after Lehmann got sent off early in the game. I remember his stupndous save from Samuel Eto’o which I really thought was going in.

But Almunia really came into his own when in season 2007/2008, he came on to deputise for Lehman following some absolutely crappy performances by Lehmann early that season. Almunia grew in confidence and in stature from game to game. And most of that season, we were genuinely challenging for the title for the first time in a long time.

Last season, he cemented his place as number 1 by not only taking the jersey number, but by his consistent performances. One can see that the defenders feel much more at ease playing with him at the back. His performance against Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals will live long in the memory.

Almunia is now a very steady goalkeeper who can offer security and stability at the back instead of an inconsistent goalkeeper who can pull off classy save from time time, which was all that he was when he first arrived. Now, we can finally see what Wenger saw in him all those years ago.

Lukasz Fabianski – Fabianski came with a big reputation from his native Polish League. He was a league winner at 21, and was already the best goalkeeper in the league when he was 21 and 22 years old. He is being seen as the keeper with a potential to be better than the current Poland number one – Artur Boruc. He then moved to Arsenal having established himself in his homeland.

We hardly saw him in the first season as Lehmann was the number 1 and Almunia was the domestic cup goalkeeper. Fabianski spent most of his first season playing for the reserves, which must be quite a bad experience after being the best in his previous club. The one game I remember him playing in was the horrible loss to the Sp*ds in the League Cup in which I thought Fabianski was really stunningly bad.

Last season, we saw more of Fabianski as he played in some big games. He is now the domestic cup goalkeeper since Almunia is the new number one. He played in that forgettable FA Cup Semi-final against Chelsea where he ran out of his box unnecessarily to concede the winner for Chelsea. Gooners the world over cursed him but to be fair, we didn’t deserve to get through that day based on our performance.

Despite all these criticism, Wenger believed Fabianski will become a ‘world class’ goalkeeper. I believe from the performances I’ve seen so far, that Fabianski has the raw skills to make it to the top. But he needs more support, more backing from his own supporters to gain confidence, as well as plaing time to increase his experience. Experience is an invaluale trait for a goalkeeper. If you still have doubts about him, try to remember how we all doubted Almunia just a few years ago. Fabianski is after all, still only 24.

Vito Mannone – The 21-year-old Italian was signed from Atalanta youth team 4 years ago and is highly rated by Wenger. I have never seen him in action although by reading the youth blogs, he seem to be a good keeper with good reflexes but is prone to mistakes. This could be due to his youth and inexperience. He started last season as the third choice goalkeeper. So far, he has not gotten a chance to impress and he only made one senior appearance in the final game of the season against Stoke. At 21, he still has time but he is also being pushed by the next contender.

Wojciech Szczesny – Like Fabianski, Szczesny is a Pole and his father was a full international. He is lanky and is a leader in his box and very commanding. From the reports I am reading, he seem to be progressing faster than Mannone and he will have to keep improving if he does not want Szczesny to overtake him as the official third choice.

Overall – I think in the goalkeeping department, we have a steady goalkeeper who can do a good job in top class competitions with a raw talent deputising. However, we do not possess much depth beyond the first 2. Barring some really unfortunate injuries, we should not be worried about whether we should strengthen this area. Almunia, who will turn 32 sometime during the season, should still be number 1 and I feel he still have some more seasons in him yet. Don’t forget Lehmann was 37 when he left us.

More tomorrow, in which I will comment on our Rightback for the new season.


3 Responses to “Goalkeepers for the season ahead”

  1. goonerpanther Says:

    Great write-up of the keepers! Keep-it-up!

  2. Thanks, Ben! Always a morale-booster from you that will keep me wanting to write more 😉

  3. […] fact that Szczesny came on instead of Mannone is interesting. I mentioned in my previous post of Goalkeepers for the season ahead that Szczesny is improving very fast and might be challenging Mannone soon for the official third […]

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