Power Ranking the Arsenal Goalkeepers of the Arsene Wenger Era
When Petr Cech takes to the field for Arsenal in 2015/16, he will become the 16th goalkeeper to be used during Arsene Wenger's reign.
Although names the likes of David Seaman and Jens Lehmann roll off the tongue, it's easy enough to forget the likes of Vince Bartram and Mart Poom have also played during the Frenchman's tenure.
In this piece we power rank each of the 15 goalkeepers, factoring in the scale of their contribution to the Arsenal cause, their ability, and their standing among the Gunners faithful.
15. Vince Bartram (1994-98)
Vince Bartram was one of several goalkeepers whose attempt to make an impression at Arsenal were foiled by the sheer dominance of David Seaman. Ultimately, he made just 11 Premier League appearances for the Gunners before leaving to join Gillingham.
The fact that the remainder of his career played out at a lower level suggests Bartram never had the ability to provide a serious challenge for Arsenal's No. 1 spot.
14. Richard Wright (2001-02)
When Richard Wright signed for Arsenal from Ipswich in the summer of 2001, he was heralded as the heir to David Seaman's gloves.
However, the move did not go entirely to plan. Despite saving a penalty on his home debut against Panathinaikos, Wright struggled to cope with the spotlight. There was one particularly horrendous game against Charlton Athletic, and by the end of the season he had slipped to third choice.
Twelve months after joining, he was sold to Everton. Until this summer, he remained the most expensive goalkeeper of Wenger's reign, but an undeniable flop.
13. John Lukic (1996-2001)
When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury, John Lukic was in his second spell as a Gunner. He was largely the back-up for David Seaman, having lost his place at Leeds to the younger Nigel Martyn.
The reason he doesn't feature higher in this list is that by the time Wenger took charge, Lukic's powers were on the wane. However, he did enjoy a brief Indian summer, even featuring in a Champions League tie against Lazio in 2000 at the ripe age of 39. Featuring in that game meant that Lukic had played in four separate decades.
12. Mart Poom (2006-07)
After initially joining on a short-term loan to provide emergency cover for Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia, Poom later made the move permanent.
Poom was part of the squad that reached the Champions League final in 2006, although he did not make the substitutes bench that day.
His spell at Arsenal was largely uneventful, with just one Premier League appearance to his name. Although Poom was a capable Premier League goalkeeper, we saw little evidence of that in north London.
11. Emiliano Martinez (2012-)
At Rotherham, Emiliano Martinez became a cult hero after his dazzling displays enabled Steve Evans’ side to beat the drop and remain in the Championship.
His strengths are his agility and aerial ability, although his kicking and communication both need work. Another loan spell could make him a goalkeeper with the potential to rise up through this ranking.
10. Rami Shaaban (2002-2004)
Were it not for a broken leg on Christmas Eve of 2002, Shaaban might have finished significantly higher up this list.
A curious mix of Egyptian and Swedish parentage, the goalkeeper was signed to provide cover for David Seaman but fared well enough to briefly pose a threat to the veteran’s first-team place.
After his injury, he never quite recovered his status in the squad. Loan moves to the likes of West Ham United and Brighton and Hove Albion followed, and he eventually returned to his native Sweden. Shaaban is now a television pundit in Scandinavia.
9. Vito Mannone (2006-13)
Vito Mannone—or Don Vito as he is affectionately known by the Arsenal fans—is remembered fondly as a young goalkeeper who made a largely positive impression in his time with Arsenal. One particularly stunning display away to Fulham has ensured he retains favour among the Gunners supporters.
2012/13 was the breakthrough season in Mannone’s career, as an injury crisis saw him make 13 competitive appearances for Arsenal.
However, that left him with a taste for first-team football that couldn’t be sated at the Emirates Stadium. Mannone has since moved on to Sunderland, where, after a brief spell as first-choice, he finds himself back on the bench.
8. Stuart Taylor (1997-2005)
Stuart Taylor is the perennial substitute goalkeeper. A product of the Arsenal academy, he seemed destined for a big future with the club. Despite seeing off competition from Richard Wright, he could never quite make the step to No. 1.
Nevertheless, the fact he made 10 appearances in the 2001-02 season were enough to guarantee him a Premier League medal. At that stage, Seaman’s body was beginning to give up on him and Taylor’s availability was absolutely crucial to Arsenal maintaining their dominance. That stands as a lasting reminder of his brief but important contribution to the club.
7. Lukasz Fabianski (2007-14)
The first few years of Lukasz Fabianski’s Arsenal career were dogged by a series of humiliating errors that earned him the unwanted nickname Flappy.
Despite obvious technical talent, Fabianski seems to struggle with the scrutiny of playing for an elite club. Each error seemed to beget another, and it felt like the Pole would never have the requisite assurance to be a useful asset to Arsenal.
That changed in Fabianski’s final couple of years to the club, and he enjoyed a measure of redemption when he started in the 2014 FA Cup final, helping to end a decade-long wait for a trophy.
6. Manuel Almunia (2004-12)
It’s not unreasonable to wonder quite how Manuel Almunia managed to be Arsenal’s No. 1 for so long.
After coming over from Spain to provide cover for Jens Lehmann, Almunia impressed Arsene Wenger sufficiently to be used on occasions when the German’s erratic behaviour saw him dropped. However, nobody expected Wenger to hand Almunia the top job on a permanent basis, and it was a huge surprise when he was promoted to first-choice goalkeeper.
Although Almunia was very agile, there were some major flaws in his game: He was weak at dealing with crosses and appeared vulnerable at his near post. In mitigation, he was a popular dressing-room figure and a loyal servant to the club.
5. Alex Manninger (1997-2002)
At one stage, it looked as if Alex Manninger could be the answer to the question of who might replace David Seaman.
In his first season in English football, he achieved the superb feat of keeping six clean sheets in a row. One of those games was the iconic 1-0 victory at Old Trafford that turned the 1997/98 title race in Arsenal's favour.
Manninger made 64 appearances over four seasons for Arsenal, but he left in 2001 after the signing of Richard Wright. It seems in that instance Arsene Wenger may have backed the wrong horse.
4. David Ospina (2014-)
Colombian international David Ospina joined in the summer of 2014 from French club Nice. He was brought in as a replacement for the Swansea-bound Lukasz Fabianski and was expected to provide competition for Wojciech Szczesny.
Boy did he do that. Within six months he had ousted the Pole and taken the No. 1 shirt for himself. Ospina was never entirely convincing—his lack of physical stature was a constant concern—but otherwise acquitted himself very capably indeed.
Unfortunately for Ospina, the arrival of Petr Cech may spell the end of his Arsenal career. Should that prove to be the case, he’ll be remembered as a 'keeper who was unfortunate to have joined Arsenal at a time when they had greater goalkeeping depth than they’d possessed in years.
3. Wojciech Szczesny (2009-)
After breaking into the team after an impressive loan spell with Brentford, it appeared Szczesny was set to be Arsenal’s 'keeper for the next 10 years.
2013/14 was a great year for Szczesny, who matched Petr Cech in the Premier League clean-sheet standings, sharing the coveted golden glove.
However, since then things have not panned out so well for the prickly Pole. Last season, an off-field smoking incident and some indifferent form saw him lose his place to Colombian David Ospina. Now, the arrival of Cech appears to have confirmed he will not be first-choice next season.
Nevertheless, Szczesny retains great long-term potential. If he can learn from the new man, he could yet climb higher up this list.
2. Jens Lehmann (2003-08)
After arriving at Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund, Jens Lehmann won the Premier League without losing a single game in his first season. That’s a truly remarkable achievement and testament to his ability.
Although he had a dodgy temperament, there was nothing questionable about his talent. Lehmann was an astonishing shot-stopper and commanding presence at the back.
Lehmann returned to Germany to play for Stuttgart in 2008, but cemented his status as an Arsenal legend by coming out of retirement to help the Gunners out in 2011. An injury crisis meant he played one final Premier League game for Arsene Wenger against lowly Blackpool.
The only reason Lehmann does not top this list is that there was one remaining goalkeeper with greater longevity and consistency.
1. David Seaman (1990-2003)
When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal, he was incredibly fortunate to inherit a goalkeeper as gifted as David Seaman.
With the exception of Jens Lehmann, Wenger has struggled to uncover stoppers of that kind of calibre. Seaman was agile, authoritative and unerringly calm.
It’s no surprise that together Seaman and Wenger claimed two Premier Leagues and three FA Cups. He’s not only the greatest 'keeper to play under Wenger—he’s arguably the greatest Arsenal 'keeper of all time.