Why do Arsenal fans doubt their club's goalkeeping so much? Why were so many disappointed in Arsene Wenger's unsuccessful attempts to obtain Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer? Take a look below for last season's comedy of errors by Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.
January 24, 2010 Stoke 3, Arsenal 1 (Fabianski)
FA Cup fifth-round tie at the Britannia Stadium, always a tough place to play for Arsenal. Rory Delap heaves a long throw into the penalty box, which Lukasz Fabianski doesn't attack, allowing Ricardo Fuller to head right in front of him for the goal. The early score spells the end of Arsenal's FA Cup participation for the season.
February 17, 2010 Porto 2, Arsenal 1 (Fabianski)
First leg of the first knockout round in the UEFA Champions League. Arsenal is hoping to set the tone for a lengthy European run, despite several injuries to the side, including Manuel Almunia. Instead, they almost see their journey derailed single-handedly by Fabianski. First, the Pole pushes Silvestre Varela's cross into the goal (3:27 into the video), as if the keeper were looking to score himself. Then, Fabianski and Sol Campbell get mixed up on a back pass, with Fabianski handling (10:00 into the video). With Campbell and the keeper still arguing with the referee, Ruben Micael nudges the indirect free kick to Falcao, who can't miss the gaping goal.
March 27, 2010 Birmingham 1, Arsenal 1 (Almunia)
Arsenal needed a win to stay in the EPL title race, but Manuel Almunia could only spill Kevin Phillips' soft kick into the goal during injury time (8:52 into the video). It was Phillips' 250th goal in his career and a bitter pill for Gooner fans to swallow, considering Arsenal had several chances to put the game away.
April 14, 2010 Tottenham 2, Arsenal 1 (Almunia)
Arsenal are on the brink of being out of the English Premier League title race, but are looking to consolidate their Champions League position and dampen their rivals' European hopes. English Premier League debutant Danny Rose (2:57 into the video), 19 years young, would have none of that though, rocketing a 40-yard volley after Almunia's punchout on a corner. Rose's volley was pure...but it was right over Almunia's head.
April 18, 2010 Wigan 3, Arsenal 2 (Fabianski)
Oof. If there was any doubt that Arsenal were out of the EPL race, that doubt was erased here. Fabianski has the chance to impress immediately after the North London derby and ends up with another howler. Arsenal were up 2-0 when Ben Watson pulled one back (1:56 into the video), setting up the infamous comeback. Fabianski would then gift Wigan an equalizer, spilling a corner onto Titus Bramble's head (2:35 into the video). A classy Charles N'Zogbia's left-footed strike (as much of a result pf poor defense as good movement) seemed like a formality.
May 5, 2010 Blackburn 2, Arsenal 1 (Fabianski)
NOTE: There is a violent movie advertisement at the beginning of this video. I did not put the advertisement in, it just pops up whenever I press play. I tried to find other video versions, but could not find any. If you find any ad-free alternatives, let me know.
Blackburn Rovers vs Arsenal
Fabianski came up with a couple of quality saves in this fixture, but did not deal with a corner that led to the first goal. He (along with Sol Campbell) were then outmuscled by man-mountain Christopher Samba (4:15 into the video), who scored a game-winning header. Losing out to Samba is nothing to be ashamed of; getting flattened like a pancake, without getting a hand to the ball, is another matter entirely.
|Standings||Played||Wins||Draws||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Points|
|2) Manchester United||30||21||3||6||70||24||66|
Arsenal were leading the league (though the challengers had games in hand)! But then look where the Gunners finished (courtesy of ESPN):
That means Chelsea got 22 points in its last nine games, Manchester United got 19 points in its last eight games, and Spurs got 15 points in its last eight games.
Arsenal? EIGHT points in its last seven games.
Then take a look at the last four scorelines in this list: draw at Birmingham and losses at Tottenham, Wigan, and Blackburn, all impacted by dubious goalkeeping. If Arsenal get four wins instead of one draw and three losses, the club would have had 12 points from those fixtures instead of one.
Eleven more points would have given the Gunners 86 at the end of their "theoretical" season.
If other results from the other teams had stayed the same, then Arsenal would have lost out to Chelsea on goal difference. But the season result would have looked much more respectable.
Let's try another route. We will keep it conservative and subtract the goals that were the result of costly goalkeeping errors from those four games. A costly goalkeeping error cost Arsenal a win at Birmingham and, at the very least, draws at Spurs, Wigan, and Rovers. Let's say Birmingham should have been a win, and the rest of the fixtures draws.
That means Arsenal could have had six points from these fixtures rather than one. That's a five-point swing on goalkeeping errors alone. And this article doesn't even count other borderline goalkeeping mistakes committed throughout the season.
With the transfer window behind and Arsenal off to a good start, fans have reasons for optimism. But Arsenal are going to have to get more consistent goalkeeping from one of their keepers or face uphill battles in the competitions ahead.