Arsenal supporters could blame Shay Given for their club’s inability to sign a much-needed goalkeeper in the summer transfer window, but I really feel the blame needs to be aimed squarely at the shoulders of Arsenal Football Club. They needed to have a Plan B in place. They did not. And it’s very possible that the first half of the 2010-11 Premier League season may suffer as a result.
When Given decided he wanted to stay at Manchester City rather than move to Fulham, that meant that Fulham would hold on to Mark Schwarzer instead of him moving to the Gunners. Not only does this benefit City by ensuring they have two world-class goalkeepers competing for the same spot in the line-up, but it also gives City a much-needed competitive advantage over Arsenal especially if both clubs end up next or near each other in the league table.
We all know how costly it was for Arsenal during the 2009-10 Premier League season when they didn’t have a firm pair of hands between the goalposts. The points the Gunners dropped home and away could have made the difference between them finishing third, where they ended up, and closing in on second and first place where they were five and six points away respectively.
The writing has been on the wall for quite some time for Arsenal. Wenger and Arsenal supporters recognized last season that there weaknesses up front, in defense and in goalkeeping. The Gunners added Marouane Chamakh to shore up the forwards. They added Laurent Koscielny in defense as well as Sebastien Squillaci. But they failed to get one single goalkeeper to either compete for the number one jersey or to replace Almunia and Fabianski.
What have Arsenal’s scouts been doing all season? Why couldn’t the Gunners have a suitable replacement in case the Schwarzer deal fell through? Given was mentioned as a possible target too, but Arsenal should have had other options. The goalkeeper spot has been the weakest position on the Arsenal eleven man team for a considerable amount of time.
There should be no excuses to explain why Arsenal was unable to find a goalkeeping replacement during the August transfer window. None whatsoever. Now, going into the rest of the 2010-11 Premier League season, Arsenal’s opponents will know that the club has a definite weakspot for clubs to attack. And the fate of what happens is now on the shoulders of Almunia and Fabianski to do the best they can. Based on how they performed last season, and for previous years, I don’t believe they have what it takes to compete at the highest level week-in week-out. Both are excellent goalkeepers but they have their weaknesses.
The best that Arsenal supporters can hope for is that the club stays in the Premier League race until January and that the club then makes a move to bring in a replacement at that time. In an average Premier League season with all of the demands of the Champions League and domestic tournaments, that’s a lot to ask for.