Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Relax – everything is in hand …

Good morning.

It’s Friday. I’m going to London today, and that’s as much as I have to say. Why spoil it? Why blather on and on about stuff and things? Stuff, ok. Things, possibly. Stuff AND things – that’s just too much for this time of the morning.

Here’s what you need to know. A certain American podcaster whose name may or may not rhyme with Delliot Zzzzvmith arrived in Dublin yesterday and I’m not saying he forced me to drink a lot of wine in an Italian restaurant, and some unnecessary Sazerac in the back garden when we got home, but if he wasn’t here I’d be much less hungover than I am right now.

These are just facts. Nobody can dispute them. Not even Manuel Almunia. Did you know he played four games for West Ham? That’s a fact. Nobody can dispute it. But not many people remember that. Cast your mind back to 2011. Arsenal, as we all know, were in great shape back then. Everything was amazing. So good. So, so, so good – as a certain very weird little opposition manager might say.

The summer had gone brilliantly. There were no transfer sagas to think about, with our best player having his head turned by a certain very weird little opposition manager who then signed him and then decided he needed some time off to find himself in New York a year later. Another decent player, but no more than that, had spent the summer presenting himself like cat in heat to Manchester United only to go and sign for Man City. Things were so great we had Emmanuel Frimpong in midfield.

We were, as they say, living the dream. Which is amazing, because the thing about dreams is they are always positive. There isn’t even a word in English for a bad dream because they just don’t happen. They have it in German, because there’s a word for everything in German. It’s DREAMSCHESSEIN. That’s when the clouds in your dream world don’t look like candyfloss.

Anyway, the point is, back then we were stacked in goal. The Polish influx had taken hold. Lukasz Fabianski was there looking handsome, and Wojciech Szczesny was hanging around the bike sheds out the back of London Colney smoking Benson and Hedges or John Players or whatever. It doesn’t matter. He was just very cool. He had a canvas satchel on which he had scrawled The Doors logo with a Bic biro. Tell me you’re the coolest kid in school without telling me you’re the coolest kid in school.

That meant there was no place for Manuel Almunia. Third goalkeepers weren’t even a thing back then, although Vito Mannone was lurking around trying to get the two lads to like him.

“I like a the Doors!” he’d say, but Szczesny would then reply, “Which is your favourite album then?”, and because this was before the Internet was invented, he had no way of looking it up and his reality as a fan of Zucchero was exposed, opening him up to a kind of mockery from which he never recovered. The man moved to Minnesota at one point. That tells you the whole story. Just ask any American podcaster whose name may or may not rhyme with Delliot Zzzzvmith.

Anyway, the point is Manuel Almunia was not getting a look in at that point so when West Ham said “We need a goalkeeper” we said “We have one spare” and Arsene Wenger sent Manuel to Sam Allardyce. I’m not saying this was his ultimate revenge on the Walrus or anything like that, but the choices at the time were to send Almunia or a thermonuclear weapon. We were concerned about fallout, so they went with the first option.

He played the first of his four games for West Ham in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on October 1st. Did he let in two goals? Sure. But then did Palace also let in two goals? Yes they did. It was Desmond. Here’s the thing though. That West Ham team that day also featured Henri Lansbury, a certain David Bentley, and a young man on the bench called Guy Demel – all formerly of this parish.

Four former Arsenal men in a West Ham side? Makes you think, eh?



Exactly. Just watch.

Right. I’m going to leave it there, because I have to go to the airport soon. Looking forward to seeing some of you in London, at our live event with our ArsenalVision chums at Ally Pally on Saturday night, and on Sunday, of course.

May the spirit of Almunia bless you all. Go in peace to love and serve Manuel. Amen. And stuff. But perhaps not things.

That would be taking it too far.

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