Manuel Almunia's Worries and the Return of William Gallas
You have to feel for Manuel Almunia. First, he was beaten a little too easily at the near post by David Ngog in the game against Liverpool, then he had to deal with awkward questions about his future given the fact that Arsenal have been linked with at least two top keepers as potential replacements for him.
I still think Almunia makes a great backup goalkeeper for any top-four team, but after being No. 1 for three years, I doubt it if he could handle relegation to the bench.
If we do sign a new goalkeeper, I don’t expect Almunia to stay at the club. I think he’ll be too embarrassed to sit on the bench and watch someone else take his place. I think his situation is far worse than was the case with Jens Lehmann as he has always had the jury out on him and losing his place would be an indictment on his inability to handle the pressure of being first choice at a club like Arsenal.
It’s interesting to know that Almunia has also changed his stance on the issue. A few weeks ago he claimed to be unperturbed by the fact that we had been linked to the likes of Schwarzer, Given, and Lloris.
Now, he claims to have concentration issues arising from the constant speculation. I guess this is why Wenger has been very coy in speaking about the issue as such uncertainty is more distracting for goalkeepers than for other outfield players.
Last night the rumour mill was filled with speculation that Mark Schwarzer is due at Arsenal this Thursday for his medical. Let me point out that this is all unconfirmed information coming from third parties and not directly from the club.
However, the general consensus is that we need to make at least two new signings—a goalkeeper and a defender. At the end of last season I speculated that excluding Chamakh, which was a given at that point, we would be lucky to sign more than two players. That in itself was predicated on the fact that I expected Sol Campbell to stay and did not anticipate that Eduardo would leave.
Defensively, we are unbelievably short in numbers. YoungGunsBlog tweeted on Sunday that Arsenal must be the only top club to have double the amount of fit goalkeepers than fit centre backs.
At first glance, it's an appalling situation for a club that seeks to challenge for the Premier League title. However, when you take into consideration the extreme difficulties the club has faced in signing players this summer, you have to wonder if we could have done more to keep key players who left for non-sporting reasons.
When I say this, I’m really thinking about the curious case of William Gallas. Yes, he had his psycho issues, but we did lose a precious defensive asset when he decided not to renew his contract. Sol Campbell was only ever going to be a backup player so his departure made plain sense but I am left to wonder if we could have given Gallas more assurances about his future.
His injury problems were well-documented over the last few years and I won’t be surprised if he considered the fact that this could limit his appearances over the next year and scupper his chances of a new deal.
I look at the likes of Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes at Manchester United and I wonder. They’ve been on one-year deals for ages. I have no doubt that Gallas would have been able to get another extension at the end of the season as long as he was able to keep form and maintain his performances at the highest level required.
I wonder if I should be saying this, but bar a pay rise I’m sure a clause of some sort could have been inserted into his contract to trigger a renewal after certain milestones were met. Still it was always clear that the club were never going to renege on their one-year deal policy for over 30s in his case.
To the best of my knowledge, Gallas is still without a club at the moment seemingly hitting brick walls in his bid to find a new club. I have no doubt about his quality and and ponder whether it is too late to have a rethink on both sides of the table. It’s already been done this season at Liverpool and given our peculiar situation it would be almost immoral if the window closed with Gallas unemployed and Arsenal without a new defender.
Till next time…Victoria Concordia Crescit!
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