It’s easy to know where the focus of this morning’s blog is going to be. The lack of a new goalkeeper at the club.
Firstly, let me state for the record, I am disappointed. I thought it was vital that we bring in a new keeper this summer and I can’t quite understand why we didn’t. I don’t think we’ll ever know because Arsene is not going to tell us. He’s going to talk about the ‘four great keepers’ he’s got at the club right now and how they’re all going to challenge for the number 1 spot etc etc.
It was clear last season that it was a position that was troublesome and I believed the only way to solve the problem was with the chequebook. As the summer went on and time went by it looked as if all our eggs were in one Australian basket, and so it seems. Leaving it so late meant any complications to the deal could prove very costly. In the past we’ve played a dangerous game with transfers, letting things go to the final day of the window in order to drive the best bargain.
From the outside (and I stress that because none of us know exactly what went on behind the scenes) it looks as if that’s what happened. Fulham’s inability to find a replacement and the injury to Stockdale, which will keep him out for a couple of months, meant it was almost impossible for it go through. I’m also told that the price tag Fulham put on the player, even before that, was ludicrously prohibitive. How can you deal with people who slap an eight figure fee on a 37 year old (and I don’t mean £199,999.99p)? Work it out.
The bottom line is that if we had really wanted Schwarzer we should have done it much earlier. I know it was complicated due to the fact Hodgson was leaving for Liverpool and they had to find a new manager. And then when they found a new manager it was a big fucking cunt but still.
Then you step back from it a bit and you think – Mark Schwarzer. A journeyman and a good professional but a player who has never attracted interest from a big side until now. Middlesbrough and Fulham for most of his career. At the start of the summer most of us would have thought that was a rather unsatisfactory answer to the goalkeeping question, by yesterday people were utterly distraught we didn’t get him. I think that says a lot.
Was he the solution to Arsenal’s goalkeeping problems or just a stop-gap? How many times have we heard this summer about how he could come in and do a job without getting in the way of Wojscez©® from whom big things are expected? At 37 years of age he was always going to be a temporary fix. I will fully accept that he’s far better than Fabianski but his improvement over Almunia is based more on the fact that he’s not Almunia rather than on his goalkeeping abilities. We needed a change for the sake of change as much as anything.
And I am disappointed, as I said, but not quite as angry as some people seem to be. I think Almunia had a terrible season last time around. There were reasons for it though. He had personal issues, the least of which was the death of a relative, which undoubtedly affected his game. And we know any player can get themselves into a run of bad form. However, I don’t buy into this nonsense about him being one of the two worst keepers in the league. He’s clearly not the best, not by a long way, but he’s some distance off being the worst. As for him being the worst Arsenal keeper anyone has ever seen there are plenty who have watched Arsenal down the years who would beg to differ.
I think the goalkeeping problem – with regard to Almunia – has been overplayed and I think Schwarzer was overhyped as the potential solution. People wonder why we didn’t just throw £4m at Fulham to get it done as if £2m is some trifling amount of money. I think even £2m for a player of his standing and his age was pushing the limit of his value. Why would you pay double that when it is just a small upgrade on what you’ve already got?
So I’m disappointed that we didn’t sign a goalkeeper but not hugely disappointed that we didn’t sign Mark Schwarzer. Had we been in for a better goalkeeper and failed to get him due to carelessness/parsimony etc then I think I’d be a lot more unhappy this morning.
My main worry is not Manuel Almunia. People wonder about his confidence and how he must feel knowing the club wanted to replace him. Personally I think it could act as a motivating factor. He knows he’s got another chance and if he continues to play well then he will maintain his place in the team. I agree the whole thing might have been handled better but let’s remember this – it wasn’t Arsenal who were talking publicly about Schwarzer. It was Fulham. Arsene Wenger quite pointedly said nothing but ‘I want to focus on the keepers I have’, it was Fulham who went public then accused us of unsettling their player. Weirdos.
My real worry is Lukasz Fabianski. An injury to Almunia and it’s the Pole between the sticks again and that scares the life out of me. People talk about a signing pushing Fabianski further from the team but from what I can gather had we made a signing it would have been Manuel who made way. It was Almunia for whom vague offers came this summer. Nobody, quite understandably, made any enquiries about Fabianski.
So even if we’d signed Schwarzer we’d be in a situation where Fabianski is a broken finger or a dodgy groin away from a run in the team. And that is what worries most of all about the Arsenal goalkeeping situation. At the moment we have four keepers. Lower division clubs have until the end of next week to finalise their squads and get players in on loan. It’s quite conceivable that Wojscez©® could go out on loan again for the season. Certainly he or Mannone will go. If it’s the Italian then I have some hope that the younger Pole will challenge Fabianski strongly for the number 2 position. Otherwise I fear it’s Lukasz again.
And with the best will in the world he is to goalkeeping what the Keystone Cops were to copping. A slapstick Polish Basil Fawlty with an unparalleled record in high profile, comedy mistakes almost every time he gets a game for us. That is my goalkeeping worry.
I can’t claim to come close to understanding the manager over this one. I wouldn’t even try. I can fully understand people’s ire and fingers will undoubtedly be pointed, in a very pointy way, at him every time anything approaching a goalkeeping mistake is made. But the same manager who hasn’t bought a keeper is the same manager who bought Chamakh and Koscielny, who people seem to approve of, the same manager who is overseeing Theo Walcott’s upsurge in form, the same manager who assured the future of Cesc at the club and who brought his team to Blackburn and won last weekend. A little give and take is required.
Like it or not, and I know many don’t, we have what we have right now. I read some pretty angry stuff around the place yesterday which, as I said, I understand. I don’t understand anyone wanting us to fail however. I don’t understand anyone who wants this team to do badly or for players to play badly just so they can say I told you so.
What I’m hoping for is that Almunia, instilled with the confidence of knowing he’s number 1 and with a resolute determination to hold on to that position, plays more like the Manuel Almunia from the couple of seasons before last. A fine shot stopper, a good pelanty saver and a generally decent keeper even if he’s never going to be the most commanding. Yes, he was capable of the odd mistake but then so is every goalkeeper. It might actually be interesting to run some kind of keeper fuck-up watch throughout the season.
We might also find that an Arsenal team that is better defensively might lead to better goalkeeping. And above all else I hope he stays injury free because it’s what lies beneath that worries me most of all.
There were a couple of deals involving Arsenal yesterday, Nacer Barazite has joined Vitesse Arnhem on loan while Armand Traore shows just how far Italian football has sunk by joining Juventus. The idea of a club like Juventus scrabbling around for our third choice left back, who just turned down Benfica, is rather odd. Then again I hate Juventus, the LB7 stealing twats, so har har. Good luck to both of them.
As I said there’s still the potential for further departures to Championship/Football League clubs until the end of next week I think, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple more fly the nest.
In other news, as the Interlull takes hold, Theo Walcott spoke after England training yesterday and discussed his critics, being left out of the World Cup and what he’s doing to make himself a better player. An interesting read.
Tomas Rosicky says he wants to play more and admits he should be chipping in with a few more goals. I, for one, would like to see both those things happen.
And that’s about that. Have at it, George Wood fans.