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Death At One's Elbow

Death At One's Elbow

Arsene Wenger confirmed today that Manuel Almunia will miss tomorrow`s trip to Belgrade for our second Champions League group game away at Partizan. A casual glance at Arsenal`s news now site sees the word "injured" appear in inverted commas several times in their headline reportage. I believe there have been innumerable times during his tenure when Arsene has concocted a diplomatic injury, either to protect under fire charges (Lehmann`s "injury" in August 2007) or for political reasons (Sylvain Wiltord and Edu`s "gardening leave" periods on the last years of their respective contracts). In this incidence however, I believe the injury to be genuine.

The reason I believe so is because of the vantage point of my seat at the Grove, I was able to easily cast an eye on Almunia in the minutes following his penalty save and there were clear signs of discomfort, as he flexed his right elbow and grimaced repeatedly. When one looks at his error for the second goal when he spilled Gonzalo Jara`s shot horribly into the net, it is easier to see how he could have spilled the shot if he felt tenderness in the elbow. A second`s hesitation as he anticipates contact and a subsequent bolt of pain upon contact with the ball could very easily lead to the sort of aberration we saw. Therefore, one must ask if Almunia`s biggest mistake was not coming off if he felt compromised by the injury. Many would perceive his and his manager`s insistence he carry on as a perceived lack of faith in an out of form Fabianski, yet Wenger was unrepentant today in his assertion that Fabianski would play tomorrow night, which doesn`t seem to suggest a lack of faith in the back up option on the manager`s part.

I realise that most Arsenal fans won`t entertain the proposition that Almunia`s mistake might generally have been down to mitigating circumstances. The truth is, most have waited for the error for a few months and were delighted to see it so they could howl about how correct they were. Largely, I have tried to ignore the criticism that has come Almunia`s way. That`s not to say his involvement in the second goal was not a quite grave error, but I only take people`s criticism seriously if they are also prepared to give praise when it is due. Up until Saturday, Almunia had enjoyed a very good start to the season and turned in some excellent displays, most notably at Blackburn. Most that are so enjoying berating him now were conspicuously silent when he was playing well. I am not saying that that means everyone should rate him highly as a goalkeeper, people are entitled to think that he is not good enough to be our number 1 and it`s not a view I find utterly disagreeable. However, if one is not prepared to be measured and give criticism and praise when they are due in equal measure, then it doesn`t become about sensible opinion anymore. It becomes a witch hunt, a prejudiced, jaundiced cacophony of bile and I think that to be the situation we find ourselves in with our goalkeepers now. People are perversely proud of their subjectivity in the matter and wear it like a badge. I have to say I find it all terribly sad and really rather futile. I`m not saying you have to believe that all is right with the goalkeeping situation because Almunia`s mistake may well have been and probably was down to injury, but surely it can`t hurt just to consider it for a second?LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Monday September 27 2010
Time: 1:28PM


Alumunia would have to have an unrealistically faultless season in order to be considered even half decent by many gooners. Perversely Green and Schwarzer have been picking up plaudits for one decent performance (though perfunctory really) in what has been a poor period for both. Even Reina has remain untouched despite being below par for a while.
27/09/2010 13:42:00
You make a good point about the injury LD but WHY oh WHY is Fabianski being given another game in an Arsenal shirt? Sorry but he is beyond saving (pun intended). It must be time to look at Sczezny or Mannone. I am not filled with bile about the keeper situation at all but I am pretty close to despair. After Seaman, how are we come to this?
27/09/2010 13:54:00
Seaman was dumped by Leeds and played in the lower leagues - didn't become Englands number 1 until well into his 30's. [Edited by Amos]
27/09/2010 14:04:00
I'm talking about Seaman's reputation as Arsenal keeper, Amos. Don't get all smart-alecky. The keeper situation is a legitimate concern.
27/09/2010 14:07:00
To be honest it is Wenger not Almunia that I am furious with. It's not Almunia's fault he keeps getting picked. Making it pretty clear over the summer that you wanted a new GK, only to not sign anyone and then MAKE ALMUNIA CAPTAIN is an aberration.
27/09/2010 14:09:00
Seaman would've been no1 for WC Italia '90 were it not for injury wouldn't he?
27/09/2010 14:11:00
It is a concern - just not quite the dire crisis most would have you believe. Almunia's a decent keeper. The reason he's still our keeper is that there isn't anyone better available to us.
27/09/2010 14:12:00
It was clear that Almunia was in pain on Saturday so--this time--I do believe this injury is genuine. The far greater issue on Saturday was not Almunia but the entire team's attitude & mentality (except maybe Nasri). It's the same old Arsenal of the last few seasons: good run-injuries-complacency/lack of concentration & organization/poor defensive communication/awareness + never-ending gk issue. And of course injuries, injuries, injuries. It never ever changes. AW has handled the gk issue with incredible incompetence, it beggars belief how a manager of his quality has made a complete shambles of the post-Jens gk situation. But it's more than that-it's the perpetual inability to build a consistently solid defense and the inevitable switching-off of the players after a good run. It always happens. We'll either lose or draw at Partizan, lose at Stamford Bridge, drop to 4th, then go on a decent run until it happens all over again. Frankly, I wonder if even if we had someone like Casillas or Buffon in their prime if there wouldn't still be defensive failures with this team--because the problem goes much deeper than just the weaknesses of any individual keeper or defender. As for Almunia, as I've said many times, he's a good keeper. But the difference between him and top class keepers is that he is good if he has lots to do, like against Barca at home. But when he has very little to do, he lacks concentration. The top keepers don't drop their concentration even in quiet moments, they're alert after 5-10 mins without a shot. Jens had it. I don't buy these flip comparisons to genuinely top class keepers like Reina when they're not in form. All top class keepers have periods of poor form, that doesn't make Almunia their equal.
27/09/2010 14:12:00
No Shilton was always going to be no. 1 for Italia '90 and Chris Woods no. 2.
27/09/2010 14:13:00
Interesting article on Fabianski from a Polish football scout:
27/09/2010 14:18:00
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