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Arsenal's Sliding Doors

We`ve all had our own sliding doors moment. Mine came on a hot July day in 1999. I went to the sweet shop with my hard earned paper round money and, seduced by the mental image of a thieving Italian singer on a boat, I chose a cornetto. Had I gone for my usually solid choice of a twister, my life could well have taken a wildly different route. I removed the wrapper and began to admire my ice cream. It was sweet. Life was sweeter.

Then it happened. I looked down to see my shoelace was undone. Remembering the warnings my teachers gave me of the dangers of walking around with untied shoelaces; tripping over, breaking an ankle, nuclear holocaust; I reached down to tie them. Bad move. The top of my cornetto, until now so grand, so solid, sat proudly on top of the cone, fell. Life didn`t go in slow motion. It just fell and hit the floor. Splat.

I stood for a while, wanting to cry, but also aware that it`d get me beaten up by the lads hanging outside Bargain Booze. I slumped home, up to 20 minutes later than it would have taken had I bought the rock solid twister. No dropping the top of a twister. Put a twister in a wind tunnel and it`ll stand strong. Tap it with a toffee hammer and it`ll take it like Bozo the clown. Rock back and then straight back in your face; I`m a twister bitch, you can`t keep me down.

In those 20 minutes anything could have happened. Could have been hit by a car. Could have been spotted by a model scout. Could have prevented a mugging and become a local hero. My own sliding doors. I was going to make up a story about a sliding doors moment involving actual sliding doors, but 4 paragraphs is enough writing without making a point, so you`ll have to put the pieces of that anecdotal jigsaw together yourself.

In July of 2010 Arsenal had their own moment. Arsene Wenger put in bids of £2million for Mark Schwarzer and £15million for Phil Jagielka. Both were turned down. Fulham and Everton wanted 3 and 18 million. 4 extra million. The cost of Eric Djemba-Djemba, an England team`s poker pot, Ray Parlour`s divorce settlement so far.

Take the other door; the door where Arsenal had a commanding centre half and a proven, reliable goalkeeper. Walk through it to November 2010, when Newcastle visited The Emirates. As the clock ticked towards half time, Joey Barton pumped a free kick into the area. Fabianski got the scent. He came charging out to the ball, but like a bull to the rag, he never got there. He was left mid air flapping desperately towards Andy Carroll as his defenders all looked at each other as if to say 'what are we supposed to do? He`s bigger than us.`

Would Schwarzer have looked as much like a kid on a rope swing? Would Jagielka have just stood feeling sorry for himself?

Against Tottenham at home Jermain Defoe beat a defender in the air to nod the ball to Van Der Vaart, who passed to Bale. Goal. Painfully simple. Jermain Defoe is 5"6. He`s like a striker, but in miniature. Would Jagielka have been beaten by such a tiny specimen?

Against Braga away Arsenal had the game in the bag; a 0-0 that would have seen them through as group leaders. Seen them avoid the club who shall not be named. They lost concentration. A screaming Aussie might just have kept minds focused those vital few minutes longer.

Against Wigan Squillaci, who seems with each passing game to look more like a middle class dad man playing in a football tournament on a French campsite with kids, whilst telling everyone he 'could have made it,` headed into his own net. He couldn`t deal with the pressure of a Wigan defender, football`s own oxymoron. 2 points dropped and the Frenchman looked confused and troubled, like an old man listening to dub step.

It`s hard to believe that Schwarzer and Jagielka would have left the ball to each other and gifted Birmingham the winner in the League Cup final. It`s no surprise that Lescott has looked so out of his depth since leaving Everton. Jagielka communicated at volume, told him constantly where to be. Man City paid the right money, but for the wrong man.

In the FA Cup Almunia clearly thought he was in a training exercise, and having got low to stop Hernandez`s tame header, he decided to give Fabio a go by palming the ball straight to him. 'Oh they`re not supposed to score? But I thought ...`

The worst of the lot was against West Brom. Almunia backed his chances in a 20-80 with Odemwingie, and having missed the ball completely, decided Squillaci`s efforts to save the situation were futile, so did his best to push him over, like a petulant school child. 'I would have stopped it if you weren`t in the way.`

This was after the defence decided that 5 years was just too long for Steven Reid to go without a goal, and so they put Aaron Ramsey, from the Jermaine Defoe school of being small, to mark him. Communication and organisation would have put the ball out of the area with a firm centre half`s header.

Maybe none of this would have mattered. Maybe Schwarzer would have decided that after years of consistent goalkeeping he would try something new and play in Teflon gloves. Maybe Phil Jagielka wouldn`t have continued his development into an England regular, but crumbled away from Goodison, like Lescott. Maybe though, just maybe, last Summer`s deadline day was the club`s sliding door.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Lewis Wright Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday March 25 2011

Time: 7:32PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Not getting Schwarzer is the biggest dodged bullet I can remember for Arsenal. I reckon we'd be another 5 goals down with him in the nets.
Little Dutch
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25/03/2011 19:43:00

It's probaly something I've done, but this is the largest comments section I've ever seen. Now how to fix it? ........ RE the article. I was very pro Schwarzer at the time, simply because we needed a change, big time, fortunately I feel we didn't get MS, because eventually it allowed Szcezny to come through, and although it might not end up helping us this season, I do think he's the real deal. Of course I said that about Fabianski too.
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25/03/2011 20:02:00

Ah that's better.
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25/03/2011 20:05:00

Wenger will always refuse to buy proven Premier League players to deal with the problems he has because he is trying to build a philosophy based on the Ajax or Barcelona system; he doesn't want anybody who has learnt to play the English way at another club because that could contaminate or dilute the absolutism of his approach; which he sets up as the very opposite to the English game. He has become extremely rigid in many ways. Wenger has become a hopeless idealist. Why not spend the money if you need to? Crazy.
Tony Rocky Horror
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25/03/2011 20:11:00

Unanswerable with anything other than more questions really. Would Schwarzer and Jagielka have improved the side or made things worse. Is it hard to believe that Schwarzer has more than a few mistakes in him? Not if you've watched him for any length of time it isn't. Is the fact that Jagielka is good enough to play for England enough to qualify him for Arsenal and if so why shouldn't the same international qualification logic apply to Squillaci? Which set of sliding doors should we be talking about? Maybe the ones that have featured in the forums convinced that Scott Parker and Gary Cahill would have guaranteed us the double this season. Not so much sliding doors as a hall of mirrors perhaps? Good stuff all the same.
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25/03/2011 22:49:00

I may be mistaken but I also believe Jagielka has 3 own goals to his name this season. Though I do rate him.
Little Dutch
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25/03/2011 23:05:00

A counterpoint to the Wenger parsimony theory in which he supposedly baulked at spending an extra 4m is Bob Wilson's assertion that Wenger bid some 20m for Pepe Reina in the summer. We know he also bid something close to 20m for Melo the summer before because the Fiorentina chairman told us so. Seems that Wenger isn't afraid to spend big where he sees the value he just has different value criteria from the average supporter whose transfer negotiating skills have been honed on computer games.
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26/03/2011 00:01:00

If you really think missing out on Schwartzer and Jagielka was a sliding door moment, I don't really know what to say. However, after boring me for four paragraphs with some self-indulgent tripe and no punchline, and then saying nothing of note in the following 12 paragraphs, I'd say the only sliding doors here are the ones on your journalistic aspirations : )
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26/03/2011 02:55:00

Rip the dude to shreds and put a smiley face at the end ... that'll make it alright .... lol
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26/03/2011 05:57:00

Schwarzer ain't perfect, but I do think he would have been an overall improvement on our current 3 keepers. He's better than Sczenzny at the moment, although the younger Pole will surely be one of the world's top keepers within a couple of years. Schwarzer is better than Fabianski, although to be fair Fab didn't really do anything wrong this year. And Schwarzer would not make that ridiculous charge from goal that Almunia did. But of course, given that we are Arsenal, had we bought him Schwarzer would have gotten injured in his 3rd game and we'd be back to Almunia again somehow. It's also worth pointing out that as bad as our luck is with injuries, there is usually a silver lining, in that young players get a chance to step up. Djourou, Wilshere and Sczeszny have had a chance only due to injury, and have established themselves as 1st-choice players. Same with Song 2 seasons ago.
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26/03/2011 09:12:00

Hah, I can think of worse sliding door moments for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.. .MS and PJ are hardly there. :)
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26/03/2011 18:15:00

Arsenal will never win anything with wengers atitude of playing barcelona style total football, with players that have no discipline or bottle on the big occasion not to mention the fact that your team are lacking about 5 top players, Arsenal look like they are progresing because they still have a chance at the title, but this is only down to the fact that chelsea havnt been at our best and united arnt a top side, the only manager who could come to arsenal and win something with their budget is jose mourinho, arsenal just aint good enough, bunch of over hyped pre madonas
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26/03/2011 21:50:00

sorry elbondo. Did i tell you about my mother in law's new job? test driver at a broom factory- bang! punchline enough for you? i don't come to the street corner and tell you how to beg for change - bang-there's another. Thanks, your constructive criticism has inspired me to be a better writer
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26/03/2011 22:21:00

Thanks for the wonderful insight Chav_till-I_die (Till I die or whenever Roman stops spending, which ever comes 1st). Regardless of whatever happens at Arsenal, I hope we never become a club like yours, spunking hundreds of Millions that you havent and cant earn as a club with fans throwing their dummies out the pram when you were running the club as a proper business. You tried the Arsenal way, bringing through youth and not spending above your means, you were 5th when you stopped that little experiment, total f*@king failure.
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27/03/2011 10:19:00

lol, iceman, ive always been a chelsea fan, my dad started suporting the blues in 1970, if we wer to try the arsenal way then our ambitions would realy be going backwards, instead of trying to win trophies we would get rid of our world class players, replace them with potential, play tippy tappy football, dont improve our squad when we need to and settle for trophyless season after season while saying we play beautiful football, west brom also play nice football, were trying to take barcelonas example and actualy win something which we do every season, enjoy watching your team of spineless losers buckle under the pressure once again, and as for your briliant football, ye didnt show that against barcelona, bunch of cowards afraid to take on asuperior team
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28/03/2011 02:42:00

LD - Schwarzer, a dodged bullet? I think in the past 2 seasons, Arsenal goalkeepers, have made more 'goal-costing' blunders then Schwarzer in his whole premier league career. Not the best keeper, we know, but he has a solid record. A lot more solid then Arsenals keepers atm.
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28/03/2011 05:42:00

Not if you actually watch the guy. His numerous errors are blanketed away from the spotlight at the likes of Fulham and Boro, but he makes the sort of errors an Arsenal keeper would be hung for on a regular basis. We just don't get to hear about it as much. Almunia is a better keeper than Schwarzer.
Little Dutch
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28/03/2011 08:08:00

100% AGREE with LD about Schwarzer. He is one of these keepers that comes to our backyard and plays as if his life depended on it, the other 37 games in the EPL will be average AT BEST! The only keeper i was interested in and have been interested in over the last few years has been the also young but very good keeper Joe Heart. I think it has been a bleasing that sheza got an oportunity to show what he can do. One error in the CC Final that could have happened to anyone in any team it just so happened to be The Arsenal. So all the 'pundits' can say the same boring old stuff, arsenal need a keeper and a better backline. Sheza and Heart will be the new seaman and schmeichel. Best 2 young keepers around that will hold their positions for the next 10-15 yrs. The issue is not we needed a keeper or defence, i truely believe our first choice 11 is second only to barca, it is our lack of quality in cover. We are ALWAYS ravaged by injuries every year and with out question it has ALWAYS cost us. This is due to lack of quality in depth. I no i will sound like the moan squad here but it is what i feel. Denilson has stopped his development and looks like he has resigned himself to being covr for song and given up the fight, dunno wot to say acept the new viera my ar*e!!, midfield is amazing but we need people that can drible and take players on which seems to be lacking. Arshavin has lost his pace, i put this down to bulking up too much and age, theo is great as a weapon with his pace but u never really see him beat men one on one apart from the amazing liverpool run, look at the pires fredie viera petite overmars, they could all beat players one on one, now.....It seems to be pass around the oposition which is great to watch but when we come up against an 11 man defence we need to have someone that can take players on commit them to a tackle and pull players out of position to create space. I really think we need someone of that ilk back in the team!!
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28/03/2011 10:02:00

And to chelsea_till_i_kill_you, Jose moanrihno win on our budget.....hummmmm lets think about that shall we, he only goes places with money to spend why is that??
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28/03/2011 10:10:00

@deaduncleted- did you write this insightful piece? If so, I stand by what I wrote, but I'm talking about the article, not you personally, so don't get your t*ts in a tangle. I don't see too many comments which agree with your assessment, especially regarding Schwartzer. Keep at it though, if you weren't so quick to take umbrage you would have seen that all I said was that the opening four paragraphs were a waste of space trying to be clever/funny/who knows what, and that I don't agree with your opinion.
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28/03/2011 15:02:00

Incidentally, you even acknowledged in the piece that the first four paragraphs were pointless, so you attack me for agreeing with you? Take a cue from the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer- "I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed".
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28/03/2011 15:06:00

LMFAO, JLOWEP ! You've been watching HART for few YEARS and you can't even spell his name right !?
Strapping Blue
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28/03/2011 15:14:00

JLOWEP - Nasri is probably in the top 5 players in the world at taking players on.
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29/03/2011 04:50:00

There is no way Schwarzer is worse than Almunia. He ain't perfect, but he's solid. Both are pretty good shot-stoppers, and both are suspect coming off their line to some extent. What separates them is that Schwarzer is a vocal leader, the kind we need at Arsenal, and Almunia is most definitely not... and Schwarzer makes some mistakes, but not in the same league of mind-blowing awfulness as what Almunia is capable of.
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29/03/2011 12:38:00

I'd pick Schwarzer over Almunia any day.
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30/03/2011 00:37:00

Im with krimson and FuiKaka on this one. Almunia is a liability, Schwarzer is nothing more than a competent GK, but that, imho, automatically makes him better than Almunia. Question: Would Scwarzer of charged out of his area missing the ball and taking out Squilacchi against WBA?
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30/03/2011 11:58:00

Did anyone ever see that episode of the Simpsons where Homer comes back from annual leave and the guys at the power plant were telling Homer how much trouble they had finding a replacement while he was away and the camera pans to his little room and chair and there is a brick tied with a piece of string to the lever he has to guard - maybe we should do that using the cross bar instead of a lever?
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30/03/2011 12:24:00

On the flipside I would say Schwarzer isn't capable of the type of performance Almunia put in in Barcelona. Granted, his brain farts aren't as stark as Almunia's, but whereas Almunia will commit one of those every 3 months, Schwarzer will concede goals he should have saved regularly, positional errors, fumbling catches, getting caught out by anything above waist height are a regular part of Schwarzer's game if you watch him with the same level of scrutiny as we watch Almunia.
Little Dutch
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30/03/2011 12:30:00

Aside from the CL final Almunia has played very, very well against Barcelona. Cannot deny that.
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30/03/2011 13:30:00

Most keepers will play very well against Barca, for the same reason most keepers play well against Arsenal. They are kept in the game, always vigilant, always having to be aware. Almunia suffers when he's not getting shots at because he becomes mentally unaware. I've seen Shwarzer put in some great performances.
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31/03/2011 01:53:00

Good point Fuikaka. I'll add that while Almunia has mostly been good against Barca, he was pretty suspect for one of Ibrahimovic's goals last year. And against Man U the year before. I don't find him to be particularly impressive in big games. And while it's not PL-related, Schwarzer is the heartbeat of a fairly limited Australian side which has played well above its level in the last few years, due to hardly conceding any goals and largely due to Schwarzer's heroics at the back.
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31/03/2011 12:09:00

to strapping blue, iv been watching HART (sorry i have an issue with spelling and it causes you so much agro) for 5 years now you can ask LD how long iv been watching him and how highly i have rated him for all of thse 5 yrs, i was saying how much id like to get him early whilst he is under the radar and not out there for all to see! too late now!!And FuiKaKa i said our side was lacking players that can take people on not non existant. Ie nasri and fab are the 2 but i was making the point that the entire midfield of the time i mentioned could do it!
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01/04/2011 14:46:00

It says a massive amount that a club the size of Arsenal, with genuine title aspirations are dreaming of "what could have been" having missed out on a Championship keeper! How many years has it been since you guys had a genuinely decent keeper? WHY does Wenger have such a MASSIVE blind spot with keepers? And finally WHAT was that rubbish about the return of the German OAP clown about??? Just buy a goddamn keeper!! It's not like they're that rare
The Horses Mouth
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01/04/2011 20:57:00

Who is this championship keeper? Certainly can not be talking about Englands #1!! And our last good keeper has returned coz of injuries to 3 out of our 4 keepers. And you will also see the sheza is a genuinely good keeper. This area is no longer an isue for me, sheza #1 fabianski#2. I was pointing out to strapping blue that i had noticed what potential and a good keeper hart was going to be 5 years ago knowing that almunia is not good enough for arsenal. I think that is a sign of forward thinking and planning rather than waiting for the ***** to hit the fan and wait for almunia to be in goal. Maybe wenger knew all along that sheza was gonna be his number 1 that is why he didnt go out and purchase anyone. IF reports are to believed he put in a huge bid for reina. So trying to do what you are shouting about buying a good keeper. But he would not fill the sticks for the next 10-15 years like hart or sheza will as did seaman.
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02/04/2011 10:59:00


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