Once again I am delighted to welcome a new guest blogger to ‘1nildown2oneup’ This particular guy has encouraged me as a writer since my early days at Gunnersphere.com and gave me the confidence to believe in my ability and that if I went on my own I would gain an audience. He has been proved correct and I thank him @yorkshiregunner for his support most Friday’s on twitter….
Hola fellow Gooners.
Today I would like to discuss Arsenal’s Goalkeepers and maybe look into the future and offer a glimpse into what I`d like to see happen.
Firstly I think every Arsenal Fan agrees that Wojiech Szczesny is now firmly established as Arsenal’s No1 Keeper. That this came about due to injuries to every goalie above him at the club is a somewhat moot point. To even contemplate the likes of Vito Mannone, Lukas Fabianski or Manuel Almunia were above him last year is ludicrous in the extreme.
Szczesny has now completed 62 games in Arsenals Goal with 71 Goals conceded and 24 Clean Sheets to his name. When you take out the 8 he conceded at Old Tafford in what is possibly the worst Arsenal PL team performance, it is a lot better stat wise. The Arsenal legend Bob Wilson who not only won a double as a Goalkeeper but also coached arguably Arsenal’s greatest Keeper David Seaman to two Doubles says this of Szczesny:
“He’s brilliant, he is built like Edwin van der Sar, he plays like him and he can be as good as him. Arsenal need to just keep playing him and let him grow into the position. He could well be Arsenal’s goalkeeper for the next 10 years.”
Let’s not forget he has very successful loan spell 2 seasons back at Brentford and there is a lovely quote from the then Bees manager Andy Scott
"His performances suggest that he would not be out of place in the Championship or even the Premier League. It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it."
Where Szczesny has an advantage over the other 3 keepers in our squad is his great temperament, by which he simply doesn’t get fazed by any mistakes he may make. This trait is most important in what is arguably the most isolated position on the pitch. Has Szczesny for example got as good reflexes as Fabianski? Perhaps not. Krzysztof Dowhań, Legia Warsaw’s goalkeeping coach whom coached both at a young age thought Fabianski had the greatest reflexes of any keeper he worked with. When you consider that Dowhań has coached at one time or another the following that is some claim, Jerzy Dudek, Atur Boruk, Tomasz Kuszczak and Szczesnys` own international Goalkeeping father Maciej Szczęsny. But what Fabianski lacks is the presence and ability to block out a mistake and move onwards with an unshakable belief in his own ability.
I was present when Fabianski produced perhaps one of the greatest saves I have seen in the flesh during a CC game vs Wigan, I looked round at my mates and we all just nodded in agreement that Arsene had found another gem. That Fabianski hasn’t taken his chances is only down to one person and that is Fabianski himself. Wenger gave him ample opportunity to stake his claims when Almunia was injured/dropped after one too many poor performances. Fabianksi has ability and won us a game away at Wolves with saves and quick distribution at the end for Chamakh (!) to score at the death. But he also has made so many howlers his confidence has been shot and one can only presume being understudy to the young man who used to be his understudy does little to improve his state of mind. I was also there at Wigan away when he managed to lose us the game despite being well on top, he produced clangers of the lowest quality to gift Wigan 3pts and end Arsena’ls ever decreasing title challenge that day. So time for Fabianski to move on this summer I would say…
Another who will be moving on this summer is the hapless Almunia, a man who can in all honesty claim to be the luckiest bloke at the club for drawing such a wage for such a long time, Plucked from obscurity I doubt many had heard of Almunia outside his own household when he signed for undisclosed sum. Life is too short to list the blunders Almunia has made, one of which cost us a CL win when he was done near post through his legs in the Final. Almunia can make decent saves but the game is so much more than that at the highest level on which Arsenal FC strive to compete. Part of me thinks this summer’s move for Park was a cunning ploy to move Almunia and his pink poodle on. That there were no takers for him speaks volumes for his lack of ability…
Speaking of lack of goalkeeping ability it brings us neatly on to the Clown prince of our Three Goalkeeping Stooges Mr Vito Mannone. After joining Arsenal for £350,000 he was sent out on loan to Barnsley Making his debut in an away game to Preston North End, he came on as a substitute after their Keeper was sent off. He punched a cross onto Patrick Agyemang’s head and the ball bounced in for the winning goal to Preston. In his next match, starting in place of the suspended Colgan, against Luton Town, he dropped a cross late on and Ahmet Brković scored, soon after this Mannone was sent back with a “knee” injury. Mannone`s day in the sun came during a little run in the first team due to injuries to those above him, he produced a MOM performance against Fulham which when one looks back on you can see was fortunate to say the least to keep a clean sheet, one shot hit him square in the face! I ask you how many times have you seen a Keeper get hit in the face by a ball? Vito has had two spells and is currently in the middle of his second at Hull City (where it seems his luck is holding out as he has a number of clean sheets whilst there). Vito Mannone is my choice as the worst keeper to ever wear Arsenal FCs gloves. He would be better suited to dressing as the clown he is and driving an undersized fire-engine round the pitch throwing buckets of confetti over the crowd….so hopefully he leaves too this summer.
All Keepers have the ability to make incredible saves, it’s the ability to do it week in week out, ignore mistakes and keep concentration for 90 minutes that separates the decent shot stoppers from the World class goal custodians.
Inexplicably if all three were to leave this would save a monthly wage of around £140k!!!! Let’s bring in an experienced number 2 on say £30/40K a week and add the saving of £100k to the wages of Robin Van Persie I can’t imagine too many Gooners would argue that doesn’t make sense?
So, that leaves 2/3 spaces open in our squad for Goalkeepers, I have discussed this on forums and the best shout was for an experienced no2 of the likes of Bolton’s current number 2 Jussi Jääskeläinen who at 36 yrs old would jump at the chance of a move to Arsenal. Wenger has shown he is in the market for Goalkeeping experience in the past two summers having moves fail for Mark Shwarzer and Brad Friedal. (Kudos to @arselona on twitter for his Jääskeläinen shout.)
This leaves two spaces, in theory maybe just the one as not many clubs have to call on 3 keepers in a league season, to my knowledge we are still the only club to have been awarded medals to 3 keepers during a PL season 2001-2002—Seaman, Richard Wright and Stuart Taylor. (Wright and Taylor were both on 9 games for last game of season and the medal threshold was 10 games, Wenger picked Wright to start and brought on Taylor as sub to invoke the 10 game haul and the medal for his services that season)
The remaining space I would hope would go to another exceptional young Keeper we have at the club in Damian Martinez who made five appearances for Steve Bould’s Under-18 side, featured for the Reserves and played both games of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup campaign last season and has recently been involved more with the Reserves. Martinez was also called up by his national side Argentina last summer for a tournament but alas never got any game time. Martinez would be an ideal no3 at this stage of his career who could perhaps get the occasional CC game and would benefit from working with first team squad day in day out.
I`m sure there will be movement this summer in the Keeper dept. Who goes / who stays / who comes in are all moot points due to the exceptional Wojiech Szczesny who has taken his first team chance with both hands and will surely injury permitting be Arsenal’s no1 for the foreseeable future. He`s only going to get better. Once his distribution is sorted he will be pushing for the best Keeper in the world tag in 3/4 years time….. in my opinion he`s that good, that he is also a complete lunatic and has an obvious love for the club and is gaining a reputation as a penalty killer are just other plus points.
Another point to mention in the Goalkeeping Dept is the rumour that Mad Jens is to return to do some coaching toward his UEFA Badges, ( along the lines of Keown’s time during our record breaking CL run to the Final) I see this as only a good thing, Jens was a World Class International Goalkeeper of the highest pedigree and although he was often perceived as a loner when playing and training ( he was rumoured to never speak to his rivals not just Almunia at Arsenal but also Oliver Kahn and the late Robert Enke for Germany) he is well liked, respected and intelligent enough to get his ideas across on the training ground. Plus it’s always good to bring back ex Gooners to the club who can have an influence and show the youngsters in the side what it means every time you pull on the famous Cannon.
Look me up on Twitter (@yorkshiregunner) to discuss the above and if you don’t agree I`ll attempt to change your mind
Thanks to Dave for giving me this opportunity to speak to his many followers, I hope I haven’t let him down…
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