There’s no other way to put this so I’m just going to be blunt: if Arsenal don’t sign a gods damned keeper I’m afraid that the club will have a Gooner revolution on their hands.
Now, before you jump on me my regular readers know that I’m not a gloom and doomer, chicken little, or nattering nabob of negativity. I can be negative, but mostly I’m a bit Pollyanna at times and have even described myself as a wild-eyed optimist. In truth I have been all of those in the past; negative, positive, and occasionally even realistic.
On the one hand, I understand those who get down on the club because their criticisms always have a kernel of truth. Wenger doesn’t spend and it is frustrating to see other clubs buying up the best players in the world and then going on to win things. So, I can see where they are frustrated with the club over the last 5 years as we blew up arguably the best team that the Premier League ever saw and replaced gods like Vieira with pass-masters like Denilson.
At the same time, I also understand the people who are wildly optimistic about the club. We have some of the best young English talent to come through in decades all the while building a brand new 60,000 seat arena. If Jack Wilshere can somehow escape the leg breakers in the Premier League and continue to learn the touch and movement in Arsenal’s game he has a real chance of becoming the player that everyone thinks Joe Cole is. Throw in the fact that Arsenal are the most financially stable team in the league owing to the new stadium and I agree with them that the future is bright.
The truth is that both views of the club are right; Arsenal are both frustrating and satisfying. Arsenal football club is frustifying.
That said, in reading the opinions of Gooners from all walks of life, the one thing I can say that every single Arsenal fan agrees on is that Arsenal need a new keeper. If there is a soul out there who would like to write an impassioned defense of Almunia or Fabianski I would love to read it. Please, post it in the comments.
For me, Almunia has never really been convincing. He had a good season two years ago, but since then he’s been very shaky. On the positive side he gets down very quickly, his reaction times are very good, he saves penalties, and he plays the Arsenal Sweeper-Keeper role well. On the negative side, he freezes on corners, couldn’t clear a dirty dish, and lacks any kind of solid presence in the back. None of which mentions the mental errors that he makes consistently.
Fabianski is young and like Almunia he’s got great reaction times but his flaws are deeper than Almunia’s, if that’s even possible. Fabianski’s biggest problem is that he hesitates with his decision making on corners and set plays. This leaves the defense helpless on set plays and not knowing what to do. Oh, and he’s highly error prone and doesn’t organize the defense on open plays, set plays, or really any plays. In his defense, he’s young, and keepers learn those qualities over time, so maybe he’ll be the world’s best keeper — in 10 years.
Mannone has all the same problems that the others have. In fact, I see him in the same mold as Almunia. Great shot stopper, but incapable of organizing a defense or commanding his area.
Sneezy… you’re kidding me if you think we are starting a 20 year old in goal, right? That’s just crazy.
So, realistically, we can’t possibly start the season with any of those players in the goal for Arsenal, can we? Well, we can but only if Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board wildly underestimate the growing tension among the fan base around the goalkeeper position.
Who is available? Well, the word is that Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer is Arsenal’s only target and that we’ve offered the 37 year old a position as keeper/coach. As a player he is inconsistent and Australia’s World Cup performances (I actually watched them all) showed that he’s a lot like the keepers we already have. Maybe he’ll be a great coach, clearly our current coaching staff aren’t cutting it.
But the whole way that this is playing out is a bit worrying. I keep hearing talk about how we don’t want to stunt the development of our young keepers but what could be more stunting than giving them dross for competition in practice and losses when they get out on the pitch? You want Sneezy to develop into the world’s best keeper? Make him compete against Neuer or Handanovich in training for a starting spot. Having him break into the first team because Almunia and Fabianski make gaffe after gaffe on the pitch is hardly “developing” his young talent.
So, I think the club have a really big problem that they need to deal with. More than just getting a keeper in who can win us a few games Arsenal need to get a keeper in who will show the players and fans that they are serious about winning. If they don’t and come matchday against Liverpool we see Fabianski lining up in the pink and black I suspect that there will be more than a few angry voices on this blog and all of the other 10,000* or so Arsenal blogs that are out there.
My advice to Arsenal is to buy a damn keeper and buy one now. Hell, buy two, just in case the other one breaks. You have the money, so think of it as an investment in supporter’s good will. Because if Arsenal don’t buy a keeper and start the season struggling with error prone players in defense, there will be a flood of negativity that even a Pollyanna like myself will be incapable of holding back.
*It’s true, I get about a request a day to link to someone’s Arsenal blog. Pretty soon, I suspect that every Gooner will have their own blog.