Arsenal FC: Thoughts on the Gunners' Present Goalkeeping Situation

Toni Okike@@enigma106Senior Analyst IISeptember 22, 2012

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Vito Mannone of Arsenal show in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at The Britannia Stadium on August 26, 2012 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The man that chews gum more than most ladies I know, Sir Alex Ferguson (via Sky Sports, h/t stated that he has two goalkeepers of equal talent, and alternating them from match to match is not a big deal.

Both Anders Lindergaard and David De Gea have shared the No. 1 spot for the Red Devils this season, making two Premier League appearances each so far in this campaign.

Rephrasing Sir Alex Ferguson’s words using my own lexicon, it would sound like this:

Alternating my goalies isn’t a problem for me; they are both equally very good goalkeepers. The most important thing am trying to do is give them experience in the English gameneither is as experienced as Edwin Van Der Sar or Peter Schmeichel.

Except you’re living in a cave far away from internet, color TV and civilization, you should know that Arsenal is faced with such an interesting predicament.

This was a club that was a million quid away from acquiring Mark Schwarzer’s services after it was obvious that the manager had lost faith in Manuel Almunia. In a sudden twist of fate, the usually shaky Lukasz Fabianski hit a rich vein of form, but a shoulder injury paved the way for Wojciech Szczesny and the team's not looked back since.

Going back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s words, you can place Szczesny and the resurgent Vito Mannone as two talented but inexperienced goalkeepers playing at London Colney.

Szczesny joined Arsenal at the tender age of 17 and has already notched up 55 Premier League appearances for the club despite being only 22. The young lad also justified the faith Arsene Wenger bestowed on him last season with stellar performances that calmed the goalkeeping storms Arsenal had been burdened with in recent years.

He did pretty well to keep 13 clean sheets last season but he gave room for Arsenal fans to doubt his abilities after he flapped at a routine cross against Southampton that resulted in Arsenal’s impregnable clean sheet record going with the wind.

Arsenal fans went haywire when the club kept three clean sheets on the trot. A fourth consecutive clean sheet coupled with six unreplied goals would have seen Arsenal fans scream so loud, it could be heard on the moon.

However, Szczesny’s poor piece of judgment cost his team dearly and as expected, this has prompted some fans to call for Mannone to reclaim the shirt that he guarded valiantly while Szczesny was nursing his rib injury.

Wenger, like always, was quick to back his ward and still maintained (per the club's website, h/t that he is still our numero-uno, though the mystery injury that kept him out of the Champions League showdown with Montpellier Herault SC may suggest differently.

Vito Mannone on the other hand is gradually endearing himself to the susceptible hearts of the Arsenal faithful after keeping two clean sheets against Stoke and Liverpool. It is noteworthy that Vito is actually older than Szczesny and joined the club before the Pole as well.

He has been on the fringes his entire career at the Emirates but he has had his fair share of success in his loan spells at Hull City.

Don Vito enjoyed a season-long loan at Hull City last season where he kept nine clean sheets in 11 games from January to March 2011 and almost helped the Yorkshire club to a coveted npower Championship playoff spot, but they narrowly missed out.

However, Mannone will be forever remembered for his 5-star performance against Fulham in the 2009/10 season, where he was the difference between three points and one on the night. Wenger has said, via, that the Italian goalie is seriously pushing hard for the No. 1 spot and that this is a player that was a forgotten entity some months ago.

Reports emanating from some of the media reveal that Szczesny is out for three weeks with an ankle problem. I’m pretty sure that Chuck Norris stepped on his unfortunate ankle by mistake, because Szczesny seemed to be in good condition in the Emirates sunshine when his team thrashed hapless Southampton with six goals.

The tide is favouring Vito these days. Events and circumstances have generated some debates on who will be between the Arsenal sticks against Manchester City and who will become the Arsenal No. 1 for this season.

Do you think Mr. Wenger should adopt Manchester United’s approach and rotate two goalkeepers? Is that wise in football not to have a steady No. 1? What will this style do to goalkeeper’s confidence and experience?

In my opinion, I would like to see stability in Arsenal’s last line of defence, but it is left for the coaches to make a decision; why not Mannone if he keeps proving otherwise. Szczesny on the other hand has to put his feet on the ground if he wants that spot.

I love the new-look Arsenal as well as the competition for places on the team, and it’s really heart-warming to know that the players on the pitch are more than willing to give their all for the Arsenal cause, unlike back in the days when players were assured of their starting berths and complacency became their watchword.

Farther up the pitch, Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott are finding it difficult to break into the first team. These are our best players from last season. With the imperious form of Santi Cazorla, I really have doubts in seeing Tomas Rosicky on a regular basis as well, and that’s one player I really love.

Whether it’s Wojciech Szczesny, Vito Mannone or Lukasz Fabianski guarding the sticks for Arsenal, due credit must go to Lord Steve Bouldimort for his defensive tactics as well as instilling some confidence into Arsenal’s back line.

A clean sheet isn’t the sole job of a goalkeeper. The entire rearguard does their bit and Arsenal’s defense is damn good at it. The wingers have also provided defensive support to their fullbacks and Mikel Arteta has been a phenom in his new holding role as well.

It took some teams four games to keep a clean sheet but it took Arsenal four games to concede our first goal.

This article is also featured in Toni Okike's Arsenal blog, Gooner Daily


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