In whose hands is the future of Arsenal? This is the question we have all been asking. Almunia was the number one, but a mystery “chest” infection which has taken a long time to clear up ahs given the third choice keeper Mannone a chance, Fabianski is back from injury and should feature tonight against Liverpool. Arsene has not taken the opportunity of Almunia’s return to restore him to the first team, so where are we in regards to goalkeepers.
Almunia has been our number one for a couple of seasons, since Lehman’s clangers. Almunia is a good shot stopper, but he does not command the penalty area as he should. He is indecisive as to when to come or when to stick to his goal-line. He does not come out for corners and this helps create a sense of panic in the defence, a goalkeeper should come out for most corners, by staying on your line you are hoping the header will come straight to you. When he does come out, as against Manchester United this season, and most of his errors over the years have been against the big teams, he invariably gets it wrong.
Fabianski has a chance to stake his claim tonight as he face Liverpool in the Carling Cup. His injury could not have come at a worse time, with Almunia out; it was the opportunity for the Polish international to cement his place in the starting line-up. Fabianski has not been without his faults when he has been in between the sticks for Arsenal, most notably in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea. His problem is the reverse of Almunia; he comes charging out too often.
Mannone expected to start the season as the third choice goalkeeper and even go out on loan. With the injury to Fabianski, he was Almunia’s understudy. When Almunia went down with a chest infection, Mannone stepped in and had a baptism of fire against Standard Liege, when he conceded two goals in five minutes without touching the ball. Since then he has shown to be agile and a great shot stopper. Mannone comes out to collect the ball from corners, but on a couple of occasions he has opted to catch the ball rather than punch and we have paid.
Wenger has been reluctant to hand the gloves back to Almunia and the Spaniard has had to sit on the bench for the last three games and watch as Mannone has continued to be Arsenal’s number one. Mannone is not the finished article and has made two mistakes, against Birmingham and against West Ham, but he has been solid. Some pundits claim that it is his continuing presence that is creating jitters in our defence, well this is rubbish. Most teams seem to buckle when you have ball after ball launched into their area, it is not the goalkeeper.
Saturday is a big game. Last season we threw away lead after lead to Tottenham and that was with Almunia in goal. Wenger knows we cannot afford to drop any points at home and will pick the goalkeeper that will do the job for us. Sod’s law states that if Almunia comes in he will drop a clanger and Wenger will be blamed for bringing in a goalkeeper with no match practice, if however Mannone stays in goal, you can see the press sharpening the pencils ready to slate Wenger about using such a novice in a high-pressure game.
We have three good goalkeepers, Fabianski and Mannone are the future but is either of them ready for the challenge now?