Arsenal - How happy is Wenger with his keepers?
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How happy is Wenger with his keepers?

The decision to field Manonne against Fulham was an easy one to make at the time. Almunia was unavailable and Fabianski injured. Other than Szczesny, who made the bench for the game, Wenger had no option but to pick him. Would he have done so if Almunia had not been genuinely poorly? I doubt it. If he had wanted to send a message to Almunia he would have waited until Fabianski was fit surely? Yet, though a chest infection can take a while to clear up, particularly bronchial infections, Almunia has been passed over for the last two games.

At yesterday`s AGM Arsene claimed he was happy with all his keepers. Telling the audience, in response to a question asking whether our keepers were good enough, that "Yes I believe we have [enough quality]. Goalkeeper is a very difficult position. Why? It is the only position where you have only negative stress. People speak only about you when you have made a mistake."

Paradoxically Mannone`s current incumbency owes much to an eye-catching series of reflex saves in the Fulham match which helped cover a number of positional and decision making errors. In this case Mannone`s experience is the polar opposite to that described by Wenger. People were only too willing to overlook unpunished mistakes and praise the saves he did make. Especially as the victory was a narrow one. The games that followed had a far greater margin for error as mistakes in the games against Blackburn and Birmingham were lost in comprehensive wins. That Mannone is a raw talent is clear and the experiences he has gained will serve him in good stead. Though it is hard to see what he might have gained, largely as a spectator, against Alkmaar it is another record on his CV.

Unfortunately for Almunia he has no CV to speak of and that's a handicap he has laboured under in some eyes. How is it possible to be a top flight keeper at 32 without having ever received international recognition at any level or played at another significant club is the thinking. Some claim that he hasn`t been convincing in the opening games but frankly most keepers at the leading PL clubs have had their share of embarrassments this season. Almunia hasn`t performed any better or worse than most others.

Wenger has often seemed not to entirely trust young keepers. Though Seaman survived for 6 seasons under Le Boss none of his understudies from Manninger through to Wright, Taylor and Shaban ever managed to usurp a keeper whose very best years seemed to be behind him. Seaman finally left the club in 2003 a few months short of his 40th birthday as another senior keeper passed him on the way in. Instead of promoting a younger player nurtured as a replacement, as Wenger has often sort to do with outfield players, he went out and bought a senior replacement in the then 34 year old Lehmann who became an invincible in his first season. When Lehmann`s entertaining but sometimes frustrating capacity to foul up became too much to bear 30 year old Almunia took 38 year old Lehmann`s place.

Is Wenger about to entrust the season to the hands of 21 year old Mannone or 24 year old Fabianski? Wenger appears to avoid letting his keepers become too secure or complacent in their position perhaps believing they operate best outside a comfort zone. His next team selection will not tell us how happy he is with his most senior keeper but it will surely tell us just how unhappy he is with him.

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday October 23 2009

Time: 5:53PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Dunno Amos. I still think Almunia is our best keeper and should remain Number 1, though from the manager's responses about his keepers, it's difficult to tell what he has in mind. Any player can suffer a dip in form and it may not be encouraging for the "junior" keepers to see what may happen to them if they have a bad patch; we do not need nervous keepers.The team list on Sunday will surely say plenty.
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23/10/2009 23:00:00

This could just be a piece of good man management from Wenger, where a good kick up the arse is what he's delivering to Almunia. It will be interesting to see who he fields tomorrow, but I expect it to be Almunia, as the message has already been delivered. If Fabianski was fit, it would have been a golden opportunity for him, but Almunia is not as bad as he's being made out to be. He had 2 good seasons before this, making the same mistakes as any other top PL goalie, but the lack of a CV does hamper him. He does need to improve his performances, as the defence has improved this season, and he needs to ensure that he's not the weak link.
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24/10/2009 08:55:00

I still have the distinct feeling Mannone is an accident waiting to happen. As the article says, he's made several already- which is not unusual for a young goalie- but one will cost us a tight game soon and I expect tomorrow to be very tight. Mannone is very, very unsure off his goalline and I don't think he transmits much confidence to the defence. The bright side is that his mistakes don't seem to effect him a la Manninger and Wright. People will point to the Fulham performance, but I also recall Stuart Taylor having one incredibly good game against Juve a few years back. I'm not writing Mannone off at all, but I would be more comfortable with Almunia in I must admit.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2009 10:44:00

Almuinia is the only keeper at the club with big game experience therefore he has to be number 1. Fabianski is capable of world class saves and world class mistakes and Mannone is way too raw to numero uno. Almunia isnt as bad as he is made out to be, people forget his match winning performances against manchester united and a couple of years back his penalty saving antics against the spuds, he also made the save of the season last year against Roma at home.
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24/10/2009 11:29:00

Its the two Poles for me. They are the future.
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24/10/2009 13:26:00

"the two poles", Tom14? So, where does that leave Almunia; and Mannone, what with his recent heroics. If something must be said about Vito, he has guts and seems to believe in himself. How else has he managed not to let his few mistakes affect him during games? That is rare courage for a young man in such a big league, amongst big players.
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24/10/2009 15:07:00

Doni is a good 'keeper at Roma...hint hint. XD
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24/10/2009 15:32:00

Mannone's heroics spnsist of a few good saves against Fulham, all of which I would expect Fabianski, Almunia and even SZ to make. The Fulham game just gave us an insight into why people rate Jussi Jaaskelainen so highly.
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24/10/2009 15:36:00

To be honest, I feel Wookash is the best keeper we have. Almunia for all his experience makes too many crucial mistakes in the big games. Almunia will always make 5 or 6 great saves but he is ALWAYS suspect during set pieces. He never comes off his line to take charge. Rather he prefers to wait on the touch line. Also , I am not sure how good he is when attacking balls outside the box( an art Lehmann almost mastered) Lukasz is a mix of both. Alright, he had a mistake in the FA cup but it was more Silvestre's problem than Fabianski. He was absolutely top class in all the other matches including at Anfield.
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24/10/2009 21:40:00

*goal line - sorry
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24/10/2009 21:41:00

Oh well. It will be interesting to see who the manager picks in goal, tomorrow.
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24/10/2009 23:06:00

the thing about Almunia is that he doesnt learn from his mistakes,and he makes them practically every his age he will never get any better,and his best is simply not good enough
fran merida
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24/10/2009 23:45:00

I'd have Almunia as first choice, he is a late bloomer as previously mentioned having no previous experience of playing at the highest level before Arsenal. he has steadily improved since his arrival at Arsenal and I can't see why he won't keep on improving. He isn't really that old for a keeper at 32, still has a lot of years of playing ahead of him.
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25/10/2009 12:34:00

almunia has got big game experience but look at the goals he conceded in the european cup final and in european semi agianst united at home? bad goals! but saying that at OT he did keep us in the game at least. im just not convinced AT ALL by almunia. Keppers of top quality are looking few and far between in the game now. Why? maybe the balls changing so much, maybe the need to try and make every save look amazing and over-react rather than just simple catch it and keep it safe.....back to basics goalkeeping, i dont have the answer. im just saying we have had goalkeepers that have been enormously strong for the last 20yrs and that inspires confidence in defense, the confidence isn't there from me any longer. So is it there from the defence? maybe a sign of why our defence is not as good as a unit as it looks potentially on paper. the BIG question is who would/could we bring in to do a better job at the moment?? For me there isnt anyone available right now. i like the look of young joe hart but we need to see how he develops, but then again we have 3 young keepers that look to have huge potential but not quiet there just now. so almunia is the keeper for the foreseable future as far as im concerened.
blok112 row1 seat580
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25/10/2009 12:46:00

That accident waiting to happen just happened against West Ham. Watch Wenger put Almunia in next match. Only too late, and too predictable. Unfortunetly Wenger is a reactive manager...not a proactive one.
Wyn Mills
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25/10/2009 18:28:00

My question is answered. Wenger is very unhappy with Almunia.
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25/10/2009 19:46:00

I'm surprised at Wenger, coz I thought he was only sending a message to Almunia. But it seems like there are more serious issues in terms of the faith Wenger has in Almunia. Its going to be interesting to see what happens now.
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26/10/2009 07:27:00

We have good keepers but we donít have a keeper in the class of Cech, Van Der Sar or Pepe Reina. Donít get me wrong, they all make mistakes and I take great delight in watching them, but what they have is a penalty area presence where the defence knows that they have a goalkeeper behind them. A goalkeeper who bawls out instructions and is positive about what he does (good or bad). There is nothing worse that indecision but I think thatís what Arsenal have in abundance. The defence is our glass jaw, starting from the keeper who adversely affects the rest. Worryingly, this could cost us dearly in the great scheme of things and it will continue to do so until the goalkeeper situation is resolved.
Sir Henry
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26/10/2009 14:45:00

"people forget his match winning performances against manchester united" I believe we lost that game iceman :P, but the save against Roma was amazing. Diego Lopez at Villarreal is a great keeper.
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27/10/2009 19:02:00


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