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.

Roundup: Adieu Dudu/Keeper/Austria

With Eduardo now officially the fifth Arsenal departure of the summer, the squad evolution continues apace. We’ve now lost two attackers (gaining one), three defenders (gaining one) and have gained one midfielder (Wilshere).

So in terms of snipping the squad’s deadheads, the work carries on.

And unfortunately, a deadhead is what Eduardo had become. You’ll appreciate that I don’t mean that vindictively but it was clear last season that poor old Eduardo’s injury has robbed him of the pace, confidence and sharpness that marked him out as a lethal Arsenal number nine. He was a pale shadow of his former self.

I feel desperately sorry for him, but I do think a fee of £6m, if true, is a good deal for Arsenal and that a fresh start in a new league is the right move for Eduardo. There’s simply no room for sentimentality.

But there can be no doubt that the position many Arsenal fans are worried most about is the one that has not yet been addressed – goalkeeper.

We all know that Wenger has a masterful way with words. But as well as the memorable one-liner he has a politician’s ability, when quizzed, to neither confirm nor deny, and to reveal something at the same time as giving nothing away. That’s why, despite being quizzed on his plans for the goalkeeping position earlier this week, he was as evasive as ever.

Were we still interested in Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, he was asked. “Not really”. That’s not a yes, of course, but nor was it definitely a no.

“At the moment, in pre-season, there is no No.1 – you have to give a chance to everyone to show how good he is. You cannot decide that today.”

Classic Wenger, defending his players, keen to keep his plans under wraps.

But seeing that Almunia has had ample chance to show us how good he is, Fabianski has on ample occasions showed us how good he is, and Szczesny has never played a Premier League game, you’d think a deal for a new number one will happen at some point between now and the end of August.

I would agree with those who say Schwarzer is still the likeliest deal.

Last night saw a 3-0 win against Sturm Graz and the word on the tweet is that Samir Nasri was the pick of the bunch. I’ve not been following the tour that closely yet – I opted to save up for a pint at the Emirates rather than shell out the £3 for the first 3 pre-season games – and besides, pre-season is still so young that it’s impossible to draw any real conclusions.

But phew, it’s nice to have some Arsenal to talk about after a summer largely bereft of it.