Arsenal Transfers: Why Vito Mannone Is Emblematic of Gunners' Goalkeeping Gaffes

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJuly 4, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Vito Mannone of Arsenal directs his defence during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Boca Juniors at the Emirates Stadium on July 30, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

What's one word to sum up Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone's Arsenal career? Unpredictable, a distinguishing trait in Arsène Wenger's keepers. 

Rewind back to late September 2009. 

"Vito played a fantastic game on Saturday and consistency is the first sign of quality," Wenger said when asked to comment on the Italian's Man of the Match performance vs. Fulham, via Neil Maidment at Reuters. "He has the potential to be a very good goalkeeper."

Andy Johnson would have scored a hat trick if it wasn't for the brilliance of Mannone.

"That's the best game I've ever played," remarked Mannone, who made eight saves, via Matt Barlow at The Daily Mail

The week before, Mannone denied Wigan Athletic six times, so in the span of a week he had registered 14 saves over two Premier League games whilst having two clean sheets. 

Instead of emerging as a challenger to Gianluigi Buffon's position in the Italian national team, Mannone has fallen on hard times. 

ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City
October 17, 2009
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Arsenal 2-2 West Ham United October 25, 2009
Belarus 3-0 Italy  October 12, 2010
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Olympiakos 3-1 Arsenal  December 6, 2011
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Hull City 3-1 Ipswich Town January 7, 2012
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Portsmouth 2-0 Hull City March 27, 2012
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal  September 23, 2012
ERROR LEADING TO GOAL Norwich City 1-0 Arsenal  October 20, 2012

Conceding eight goals due to mistakes over four years isn't a major concern for a goalkeeper playing 55 games per season, but Mannone averages 14 games per season since the 2009-10 campaign. 

"I would have coaches and everyone around me trying to pick me up and asking 'Why aren't you smiling?'" Mannone told the Hull Daily Mail. "Everything seemed to go against me and that's when you're thinking about negatives."

Wenger was open about Mannone's situation last September. 

"I was quite surprised that no club went for him as I would have let him go because we have many keepers," Wenger admitted to Henry Winter at The Telegraph, shortly after praising Mannone for showing mental toughness on loan at Hull. 

What Paolo Di Canio would have said: "Mannone is as useless as Massimo Taibi and we would have sold him but no club wanted him—not even as third-choice."

Now a Sunderland player under compatriot Di Canio, the Italian Felix Magath, hopefully for Mannone, he doesn't become the Italian Wes Foderingham.

Mannone isn't an isolated example of a goalkeeper consistently costing Arsenal. 

Wojciech Szczesny, Łukasz Fabiański, Manuel Almunia and Richard Wright spring to mind. 

Maciej Szczesny's frustrations regarding how his son, Wojciech, is being handled by Wenger gives you an idea about the blasé approach Le Professeur has towards goalkeepers. 

Since 2002, Wenger hasn't signed a goalkeeper who was featured in a Ligue 1 or 2 Team of the Year.

Emmanuel Adebayor (Metz) 2003 No, signed via Monaco (2006)
Sébastien Squillaci (Monaco) 2004 No, signed via Sevilla (2010)
Bacary Sagna (Auxerre)  2007 Yes
Samir Nasri (Marseille)  2007 Yes
Laurent Koscielny (Tours) 2009 No, signed via Lorient (2010)
Marouane Chamakh (Bordeaux) 2010 Yes
Gervinho (Lille) 2011 Yes
Olivier Giroud (Tours and Montpellier) 2009 and 2012 Yes (via Montpellier)

The two big misses are Grégory Coupet and Hugo Lloris. 

Coupet was famous for his role in Lyon's dynasty, and Lloris became a three-time Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year. 

When Petr Čech was at Rennes (he didn't make a Ligue 1 or 2 Team of the Year), Wenger failed to project the Czech's upside but managed to accurately gauge that Alex Song (Bastia) and Gaël Clichy (Cannes) would develop into top-flight footballers. 

Wenger's weakness in the transfer market is finding world-class goalkeepers. 

Read the opening paragraph via The Guardian on May 24, 2001 and spot what's wrong with it:

Arsenal have signed goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek from Feyenoord, the Dutch club have announced.

When asked if Dudek was on his way to Highbury, a Feyenoord spokesman said: "That is correct—Arsenal have said it."

Dudek never joined the Gunners as Wenger sunk the deal telling Sky Sports: "We decided we didn't need another goalkeeper."

The Pole, who joined Liverpool, later revealed that Feyenoord's decision to strong arm Wenger was the reason the proposed transfer collapsed. 

Without Dudek's miraculous double-save to stop Andriy Shevchenko from scoring plus the Poles' heroics in the penalty shootout, saving the spot-kicks of Andrea Pirlo and Shevchenko, Liverpool wouldn't have won the 2005 UEFA Champions League final. 

Meanwhile, Wenger opted for Ipswich's Richard Wright for £6 million, who lasted one season. 

Even Wenger's best goalkeeper signing, Jens Lehmann, part of the Invincibles, didn't make the Top 50 Greatest Gunnerslet alone rank above David Seaman, Pat Jennings or Bob Wilson. 

Wenger's first ever goalkeeper at Arsenal, Seaman, who Le Professeur inherited, is still his greatest ever goalkeeper. 

Who is the last Arsenal keeper to make the PFA Team of the Year? 

Seaman, 16 years ago for the 1996-97 PFA Team of the Year. 


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Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.comFox Soccer and Squawka.com


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