Thoughts on the opener/keeper/patience

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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.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. jeffers

    completely agree on the keeper, having seen the farce that was Fabianski towards the end of the season, he should have sent him on loan and got someone else in. If he wanted to be cheap (as is now painfully obvious) he should have gone for schwarzer straight off, paid 3-4 mil and told him and Almunia that they are both competing as number one. If he wanted to grow a pair, he could have gone stright in for a top keeper (i am not pretending to know who is available, but there must be 1 or 2 who would love to play for us).

    As it is, we have a number 1 who knows his time is up so his confidence is shot and a number 2 who is clearly either not ready or not up to it, maybe both.

  2. ruffneckc

    Good article. I often find disappointment, when we don’t perform/win. Liverpool defended well and we were not at full strength. I though the boys did well to grab a point, even though I was very disappointed in not taking advantage of being up a man for the whole second half.

  3. chengiskhan

    Most fans have little to no patience, which completely prevents them from seeing the whole picture.

    Indeed, most fans think a player either “has it” or doesn’t and completely discount the improvement factor. The ironic thing about this is that this improvement factor constitutes almost the entire basis for Wenger’s master plan. Most fans simply cannot comprehend that.

    That’s why fans are fans, and Wenger is the boss.

  4. Jekyll

    chengiskhan – So are you saying that Almunia (33) and Fabianski (26)could still improve into world class keepers?

    For the rest of the squad, not all of them will turn into great (or even good) players just by playing them again and again. It looks like that’s what Wenger believes. How much time do you give, how many chances, how many games?

  5. marcus

    Apparently Arsenal have been extremely reluctant to increase their bid for Schwarzer since we bid 2mil in May or June. Fulham want more and only this week did Arsenal increase the bid to 2.7m. It’s a ridiculous skintflint approach our club has. Can’t even countenance 3m for an experienced PL keeper. No, we don’t have the kind of money Chelsea or City have but we do have money-enuf for that kind of price and for a good CB as well.

    Mind you, I’m not all that impressed with Schwarzer either. All I hope is, assuming he comes in, that he knows how to organize a defense and command his area better than Almunia.

    Agreed re Wilshere – the kid makes his first PL start (at ANFIELD, ffs!) and already the knives are out.

  6. anto

    im lovin the spuds match ha ha
    champions league ha ther havin a lauf

  7. PD

    Dead right Jekyll. Almunia is 33 ffs, whatever ‘improvement’ is going to happen in his career is in the past. And I’m getting really annoyed by all this ‘his confidence is shot’ stuff. He’s been with us for 6 years now, would somebody like to tell me at what point he was good enough ????? It’s got nothing to do with confidence & all to do with ability. He was a decent no.2 without ever looking like being good enough to be no.1. Wenger decides Lehmann’s days are up. He should have been a stopgap no.1 for 6 months until the end of 07/08. For him To be still there 2 years later is simply astonishing. And anyone who tries to rationalise that & isn’t angry about it…..well you’re simply not that passionate about AFC…..

  8. Alan

    ‘Is there something else cooking?’

    Five years ago I’d have have felt optimistic and said ‘Yes, very possibly’. However, lets be honest. The only thing cooking is Arsenal being Arsenal and playing a dangerous game in order to save about 500k.

  9. RotorGoat

    I don’t think it’s down to scrimping and saving – but I do wonder why it is taking this long. I bet the money is sitting there twiddling its thumbs so it’s got to be something else.

  10. jeffers

    of course PD you are more passionate than the rest of us.
    i should have realised this when i go to the stadium to support our players, not find the latest one to have a go at.

  11. thundertinygooner

    Arsenal move so unintelligently in the transfer market always looking to save tiny amounts of money.Tonight was the start of the European matches and people like Stekelenburg and Vertonghen are now cup-tied in Europe.So many realistic targets are now compromised.
    Money matters much more than success to Arsenal-the evidence is incontrovertible.Signing a keeper for £3or £4 £million is nothing in the scheme of things but it drags on all summer to the point where the season starts and we start to drop points.If we do any deals they will be at the last minute and will be in the bargain basement.Surely we don’t need to shop there anymore?

  12. Farnborough Gunner

    We shouldn’t need to shop in the bargain basement because we don’t actually need to buy many players and we should have the funds to cover that. If we invest in a central defender and keeper (2 players) we will have a squad with a real chance of winning the PL; without improving these areas we will be aiming to finish 3rd or 4th again.

  13. PD

    If you can’t beat them join them Jeffers….sick & tired of the
    do-gooders & their ‘anyone who criticises Arsenal/Wenger/any of our players etc aren’t real fans.’
    Funny how offensive they all seem to find it when the shoe is on the other foot……

  14. Tommy

    wheres our number one ffs?

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