Arsenal's Keeping Conundrum: Has Wenger's Keeping Woes Finally Ended?
Arsenal have always boasted one of the sharpest, strongest attacks in world football. Intelligent, quick midfielders and energetic, potent, efficient strikers have ensured the Gunners reaped havoc and tormented the defences in England.
But for the last few seasons, Arsene Wenger's men have not boasted the most commanding presence in a vital area: the goalkeeper.
Since Jens Lehman departed in 2008, Wenger has trialled the likes of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski at the helm with the pair occasionally showing glimpses of brilliance before inconsistency and vital errors intervene.
But Wenger kept faith in his keeping squad, refusing to secure the services of a quality keeper and after 2008-09 and 2009-10 brought no silverware, the fans began to demand Wenger invest in a quality keeper, young or old.
But 2010-11 has seen Wenger's patience and intelligence blossom. Predominant first choice keeper Manuel Almunia succumbed to an elbow injury in September that enabled Lukasz Fabianski to take the reins.
The Polish shot-stopper had endured a torrid few seasons since arriving at the Emirates in 2006, with costly errors dominating his evident skill. But the 25-year-old showed he is a talented keeper as displays of consistency and brilliant saves dominated October and November.
Has Arsenal's Keeping Woes Diminished?
Meanwhile, Italian shot-stopper Vito Mannone, who is seldom rated by Wenger, was impressing whilst on loan with Championship side Hull City. The 22-year-old appeared seven times, boasting four clean sheets for the Tigers before a persistent groin and thigh injuries intervened. Mannone is still with Hull City awaiting his return to peak fitness.
However, come late December, Lukasz Fabianski suffered a season ending shoulder injury. With Almunia still nursing his elbow injury, it enabled boom youngster Wojciech Szczensy, who was highly touted by Wenger and considered the future Arsenal number one, to enter the fray.
Since Fabianski's injury, Szczesny has performed sensationally, appearing 13 times with six clean sheets. The 20-year-old has shown outstanding maturity and composure alongside making some superb saves.
Most noticeably was the Polish international's outstanding performance in Arsenal's most recent match. The Gunners encountered Spanish kings Barcelona in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League in which Szczensy made his European debut.
Encountering one of the best attacking lineups in world football, Barcelona boast the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro. Szczesny refused to be overawed by the occasion, thwarting Messi and Villa with some admirable blocks.
Wenger has admitted the his young Polishman is officially the Arsenal number one which raises the question, is Arsenal keeping conundrum finally finished?
The depth and quality of the Arsenal keeping ranks is superb despite their lack of fitness. With Szczesny leading the ranks, Fabianski and Mannone are also young and commanding keepers who are capable of overthrowing Szczensy. Meanwhile, the experience and leadership of Almunia is invaluable.
So have Arsenal's keeping woes diminished?
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