Deny it or not, Arsenal’s weakest position, now that the defence is sorted out, is in goal – irrespective of who is playing. While Manuel Almunia has occasions where he is solid, and he is arguably berated far more than he deserves to be, the propensity for him to make a mistake can be disastrous for the Gunners’ title hopes. Lucasz Fabianski hasn’t been given the nickname ‘Flappy-Handski” for no reason. Capable of saves of a miraculous type, but in equal measure he makes errors your Grandma wouldn’t make. If he is going to be an Arsenal goalkeeper, his good form needs to solidify and he needs to eradicate the mistakes from his game.
But seeing as neither of them have started the season in the most positive way, and we all know Arsene Wenger definitely went browsing at other goalkeepers this summer, it’s time to speculate who may start the 2011-2012 in goal for Arsenal.
As I’d have more luck finding snow in the Sahara than trying to second-guess Wenger’s moves, I’ve listed the following goalkeepers in alphabetical order.
One could easily compare Akinfeev to Iker Casillas of Real Madrid. They both broke into the first team of the biggest club in their country at a very young age, and have never looked back since. They are also both the first choice of their national team, although Casillas undoubtedly has a few more players breathing down his neck for the starting spot.
He’s not a huge goalkeeper, but his experience and ability would benefit Arsenal massively. It also doesn’t hurt, that he’s friend with a certain Andrei Arshavin, and has made comments saying that he would love to play in the Premiership. At 24, he could be Arsenal’s first choice for the next decade.
Almunia is arguably in the strongest position to start next season in goal for Arsenal, as he started this season in goal despite Wenger’s eyes gazing towards Fulham. Ignoring the negatives, Almunia is a great shot stopper and is becoming an excellent penalty saver. He is ambitious, and judging from his comments about Wenger signing another goalkeeper, it seems likely that if he’s not starting for Arsenal, he will be playing elsewhere.
It emerged last year that Arsenal had agreed a deal with Enyeama, who had a fantastic World Cup for Nigeria, but refused to pay the (not so huge) fee of €2 million for the goalkeeper, who is equally adept at stopping shots as he is firing them himself, as we saw with his penalty for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Champions League qualifiers. It remains to be seen if he could handle the rigours of the Premier League, but he is certainly an excellent shot stopper – just ask Lionel Messi. If Arsenal refused to pay €2 million for him last year, he may be worth even more if he has a successful Champions League encounter, and Wenger is unlikely to increase his offer.
Hearing that Fabianski is starting in goal for the Gunners is even less pleasing than hearing Megan Fox is happily married. But putting showbiz and glitz aside, the reason for the Arsenal anguish is Fabianski’s poor performances and his elusive hands. Though he may be young, he doesn’t command any authority in his box, and he has made mistake after mistake after mistake. By no means is his Arsenal career over, he still has potential, but maybe Wenger should send him out on loan (a la Joe Hart) to a team where he will be the number one, and his confidence and level play will increase.
He’s still only 25, and it’s his confidence, rather than his ability that is hindering him so badly – he still has strong games, like the one against Partizan Belgrade. Otherwise, unless his game increases exponentially this season, he definitely won’t be Arsenal’s number one at the start of next season.
It’s still not clear just how available Given is. While Roberto Mancini may let him go out on loan to avoid collecting dust on the Manchester City bench, whether he would let the Irish international join Arsenal is a whole other matter. Financially, Manchester City are not short of money, and would be making a team already stronger than them, even stronger by selling Given. Despite the trades that have already happened between the teams, it seems unlikely that Given will start for Arsenal next season.
You know things are going right for a player when he is France’s, and the French league’s number one goalkeeper in his early twenties, and number one at Lyon, who until recently were the dominators of French football. Wenger himself has described Lloris as “fantastic”, and the Frenchness of the current Arsenal defence might be complimented perfectly by a French goalkeeper. The main stumbling block is the price. Taking into account how shrewd Wenger is, and how rarely he likes to spend big money – especially on a goalkeeper – Arsenal fans may only dream of having Lloris in-between the sticks at the Emirates.
Mannone is definitely a promising young goalkeeper and he proved that with his chance in the first team last year, where after a shaky start, he impressed. He has a long-term contract with Arsenal, and this gives an indication of where Wenger sees him in his plans. He won’t be starting in goal for Arsenal next season, but there’s definitely a chance he will be in a few seasons to come.
Yes, Pepe Reina of Liverpool. Unbelievably, some sources (namely the News of the World) think that Arsenal are going to put in a bid for the Spaniard come the start of the year. Although the rag cited no one at either club, apparently we had a £15 million bid rejected in the summer. It seems unlikely.
Wenger had the opportunity to sign Schwarzer in the summer, but didn’t pay what Fulham were asking for. To me, this indicates that Wenger didn’t really want him that badly, and felt that the upgrade from Almunia to Schwarzer was not worth the £3 million. Although Schwarzer will be 38 come the start of next season, he will be a free agent and this might convince Wenger to snap him up.
The impressively statured Stekelenburg is another goalkeeper who was heavily linked with Arsenal this summer, although it’s impossible to gauge how much of that was actual interest and how much was the scribing of bored journalists putting two and two together. The Ajax number one had an impressive summer, helping the Netherlands get into the final of the World Cup, which they narrowly lost to Spain. His much-replayed save from a curling Kaka drive was one of his finest moments.
Despite Martin Jol, former Spurs manager, being in charge of Ajax, the two clubs have a good relationship. In the 2009 summer, Ajax sold Arsenal their Belgian captain, and Thomas Vermaelen player became the linchpin of Arsenal’s defence. Ajax are not the force competitively or financially that they once were in the 1990s. So there is a chance that Wenger could negotiate with Jol for Stekelenburg, but the price might still be too much for Wenger.
Like Mannone, Szczesny is also an impressive young goalkeeper. He hasn’t had his opportunity in the Arsenal spotlight yet, but he was sent out to Brentford on loan last season – and definitely impressed. He has all the characteristics Wenger would want in a goalkeeper, and his 6’5’’ frame must also help his cause.
Currently, he’s the fourth choice goalkeeper at Arsenal. But with his contract ending in the summer, Wenger will be keen to encourage him to sign a new long-term deal. He might be given more opportunities this season, but it would be very surprising if he was able to do enough to work himself into a starting spot for next season.
Maybe Buffon or Marchetti? Let me know what you think.