Thoughts on the opener/keeper/patience

The Arsenal goalkeeping mystery

It’s not often I quote old Shakey, mainly because I’m not the brightest bulb in the room, but here goes:

“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

For the goalkeeping situation to have gone on this long unresolved is really very odd if you ask me. It’s clearly now affecting Manuel Almunia, our current number one, who can no doubt see the writing on the wall.

Wenger has been understandably cagey when pressed, but one thing he hasn’t done is come out in full support of any of the current keepers at the club.

But he has, presumably, known all summer we need a new keeper – so what’s the hold-up? Why wait this long? With all due respect, how can it take so long to sign a 37-year-old keeper from Fulham? Is there something else cooking?

The uncertainty is doing nobody any good.

In the cold light of day…

As I sit here two days on, I must admit my views on the opening game at Anfield have changed slightly. At the time, I was frustrated at missing a big opportunity – being ten men up for a whole half as we were – and at not hurting them anything like as much as we should have given the possession we had.

But I’m often guilty of thinking only of where Arsenal went wrong and not making enough allowances for the opposition playing well. Neither side had many chances but Liverpool did play and defend well. And anyway, since when has Anfield ever been an easy place to go? I think it was a very decent result. We do need to add more variation to our game at times, when we are struggling to get through massed defensive ranks, but the lack of Fabregas, Song, van Persie (for most of the game) and Bendtner are worth a mention.

You’re alright, Jack

Given he is 18 and was making his first ever start for his club, away at Anfield, I think Wilshere did very well. What I love about him is his ability to scan the pitch, slow things down, and make a pass, all in a split second. He’s always looking for the forward pass.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect him to morph into the finished article this soon though. Anyone remember Parlour’s debut at Anfield, or how Adams was in his earlier days? They made mistakes but turned out alright, if I recall.

Blooding players like him is a long process, and one that will entail good games, bad games and a lot of patience. But it’s crucial to Arsenal’s future that young English players do get a chance – and to Wenger’s credit they are increasingly getting them – so we have to accept that it will take time for them to learn and adapt.

18 is an incredibly young age to break into a top football side.

Even at 21 a player is only still learning his trade. Is it fair to write someone like Walcott off, and to dismiss him as having no football brain, on the basis that he has been at Arsenal four years already? How much of that decision-making comes with age and experience? Injury has curtailed his career to just 75 starts in that time – only 15 of which were in the last year.

What age did Song suddenly go from being a hopeless lolloping bumbler to a fine holding midfielder? When we lost badly to Man City in November 2008 in my fury I marked him (and Denilson) down as our worst midfield of all time – yet he had only just turned 21.

A mere 18 months later he was named third in our player of the season poll after Cesc Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen.

Maybe with some teams spunking cash hither and thither as if it was small change, the patient development of players is harder to do, but coupled with a sensible approach to bringing in experience, it’s got to be the right approach.

Feed me some transfers, Arsene, I’m hungry.

So England have slunk home sheepishly, and the inquest has begun in earnest as to quite how it went so calamitously wrong.

I’m not going to get into that inquest here though, what with me being thoroughly bored of our biennial national slip-up, and this blog being of a club hue. A club, incidentally, that might not have won much in recent years, but can at least pass the ball.

If you do want to wallow a bit more in the sheer horror of it all though, then there was a very good piece in The Times by Matt Dickinson (‘Mutiny and misery: the inside story of a failed campaign’ – available free online, if you register), and amid the many excellent pieces of podcastery are this one from 5live – ‘Out of Africa: where next for English football’ – and a lighter look at things from Baddiel and Skinner. I suspect the latter two are UK only.

Right, well the good news is that inevitably, club news will begin to take over soon. I recall reading some time ago that both Gallas and Silvestre had deals taking them up to 30th June, and I read today that Laurent Koscielny could sign on July 1st. On these anecdotal snippets alone I am predicting a whirlwind of transfer activity at the tail end of this week. At least, that’s what I’d like.

Should he arrive, it’s fair to say Koscielny is the absolute nailed-on classic Wenger signing, and not just because he’s French. Wenger loves to sign a player whose skills have not been touted far and wide in England, someone with youth on their side and with the potential to get better and better.

I know nothing about him – another classic sign. Over on Twitter, @arsene_knows tells me he’s got bags of promise, and made the highest number of clearances in Ligue 1 last season. That might explain why his price is apparently £8.5m.

When we paid similar sums for Vermaelen last season, it was fully expected that before long he’d be first choice. As it turned out, he went straight into the team and was one of our players of the season. So I wonder whether Wenger will be expecting Koscielny to head straight in and partner Vermaelen, or whether he’s one for the future? It’d be a lot of money to spend on a reserve. With Djourou fit again (and presumably keen to play), and perhaps even another centre-back coming in, there should be some serious competition for places.

Looks at the same time as if Campbell – a fabulous stop-gap last year – will look for pastures new. I can see how that makes sense for him.

The Telegraph has us then turning our sights on Fulham’s Schwarzer, who is undeniably experienced, but also undeniably not a glamour signing. Does it matter? Not if he’s going to be better than Almunia it doesn’t.

So all in all, things could start nicely ticking. We’re only 18 days away from the traditional curtain raiser at Barnet.

That, as they say, is ace.