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Arsenal's Inability to Get a New Goalkeeper Is Inexcusable

Kevin Phillips Celebrates Scoring Goal with a dejected Manuel Almunia and Alex Song Birmingham City 2009/10 Birmingham City V Arsenal (1-1) 27/03/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

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.

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  1. Biscuitbum

    September 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Almunia is the club`s no 1 so he should be given our full support. Flappy shouldn`t even be near the bench and should be loaned to a championship side ASAP. Mannone and Szczesny should be left to fight it out for the no. 2 spot.

  2. Levanja

    September 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    No-one has mentioned BUFFON – 32 yrs experienced and top quality!!! Why wasnt he approached?

    • Mark

      September 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      injured his back, out until November.

  3. Aimee

    September 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I did not find this post to be inflammatory at all.
    Overall, the media agrees with this, as do many of the Arsenal blogs.
    I think this is one of the best threads on the Arse-keeper situation out there. A lot of objective and valid points. Nice to see so many perspectives.
    We (Arsenal fans) really do need to pull together and rally behind Alumnia and hope with all our hearts that he does not get injured because that is the reality of the situation for the club now.

  4. Kenny86

    September 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Arsene Wenger is time and time again frustrating me with his lack of a plan b and his serious tight fisted spending habits and reliance on the youth which hasnt won us anything in 5 years not even the Carling cup and seen us been destroyed by teams such as Barca because of Arsene poor tatics. If you need to bring in quality for the good of the team you should expect to pay a high price for it thats the way football is these days, even youngsters with great ability and potential dont come cheap these days as clubs have taken time and effort in naturing their talent and hence reflects in their price. The fact that we have not won any trophy in 5 years shows that things are clearly not working and its time for a plan b.

    All we needed to do was to buy a some good defenders which we did, a new striker in Chamakah who I think is our best sigining this summer, maybe another anchorman to challenge songs first time place who could double up as a central defender but not as important as the other position needed, and most importantly a goal keeper, which we failed to do and really there is no excuse for what ever people say.

    Arsenal is a massive club we could have got a decent keeper from somewhere in world if our scouts are doing a good job, fact. Even if they werent automatically first choice but at least challenge Almunia because in my opinion Fabiniski should be third choice at arsenal never second choice his not good enough, from what I’ve seen of him. Im so happy we didnt get Mark Schwarzer his not better than Almunia simple as that, plus his 38 years old could get a younger keeper better than both of them for the same price maybe.

    Almunia’s biggest problem is not that he hasn’t got the ability because I’ve seen him and he does make some great saves, but in the big games he lacks some serious confidence, remember the champions league final against Barca when he came on, the look on his face was as though he was getting fed to lions (youtube it). You simply shouldnt expect to win anything with a keeper that lacks confidence. Arsene Wenger is a great man manager and is great at financial controller due to lack of spending money when his got the funds. But it so often doesnt help us on the pitch where his actions reflects how we do in the season. Being an arsenal fan is very frustrating at times, due to Arsene Wenger in my opinion its not like the chairman controls who he buys or anything like some clubs. Its just bloody annoying.

    Obviously im not saying spend stupidly like Man cheaters, Yaya Toure £200,000 a week, come on now thats just ridiculous. But at least spend on players we need instead of always bloody refusing to see there is a problem, your to stubborn for your own good Arsene sort it out we Arsenal Fans are getting pissed off to often these days seriously we need silverware this season.

  5. keeco

    September 2, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I agree arsenal need a quality keeper then the defenders will play with more freedom less tentitive about making a mistake and arsene need to get back to a winning mentality i mean a desire to win trophies and not jusy qualify fot CL ARSENAL A BIG CLUB

  6. Ord

    September 2, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Arsenal has brought in 2 defenders, one we have already seen play and he’s doing alright. The other has a lot of experience and has also won championships in the past. So, despite the many, such as you, who have already counted the Gunners out of everything, I’m convince that with the added defensive help, Almunia will do quite well!!!!! There is a trophy in this season for the Arsenal Gunners!!!!!!

  7. sachin

    September 2, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Yes agree with the weak spots……..
    But as a gooner i think we should support Almunia & hope he performs better……..
    As now transfer window is closed, i feel thats the best we can do for arsenal……….

  8. Brian

    September 2, 2010 at 12:22 am

    The thing that makes me so mad is that Wenger has the funds to purchase a keeper but still holds back. There is no excuses. Even if he pays above market rates, it will still be worth if it prevents Arsenal from losing points.

    That being said, Arsenal’s weakness has been its whole defense and not just Almunia. When they played Barcelona in the CL, Almunia was the only thing keeping Arsenal alive while the defense fell apart.

    I am just tired of Wenger lacking a winning mentality. While he was making excuses after the Barca match about how Messi is the best player in the world, Mourinho figured out a strategy to contained him. Start focusing on results and stop making excuses. At least act like you want to win.

  9. TazDevil

    September 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    This issue of not getting a world-class keeper befitting of a top club is simply insulting to the fans.
    If Arsenal ends up with no EPL or Champions League title next May, Wenger should be requested to move up to the board (in recognition of his past achievements, etc. etc.).
    A result-oriented (i.e. winning) new manager (young or old) should be brought in.
    This decision could be made as early as coming December if Arsenal is out of the EPL title race !!!
    The board and the club has benefited significantly from Wenger’s excellent financial management practices for the past 5 years at the expense of winning trophies.
    It is just about time, the board re-focuses on making Arsenal the top club in England again.

  10. jleau

    September 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Honestly this whole keeper saga at Arsenal is overdone. I have watched every Arsenal game since Almunia became the #1 and I really don’t think one can objectively blame Almunia directly for more than 2-3 games over that period. That’s 9 points over 3 seasons, if all of those points had come in one season I don’t think a new keeper would have meant the title.

    Almunia is a flawed keeper and he makes his mistakes. However, Arsenal’s defense has been below par over that entire time. It’s a bit of a conundrum: is the defense bad because they don’t trust the keeper or is the keeper bad because he can’t trust the defense? Almunia flaps and all of the defenders are midgets. It’s a little of both.

    I wish the team could have upgraded but I don’t really think the title hangs in the balance on that decision.

  11. dlink09

    September 1, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    another mindless post from gaffer.

    • Gary

      September 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      I’ve been on to the gaffer’s game for a while: he likes to drop these inflammatory posts from time to time to generate a mound of comments.
      He’s mostly right about this one though.

      • The Gaffer

        September 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

        Gary, it’s not meant to be an inflammatory post. It’s meant to be an editorial featuring my opinion on a topic. Based on what happened in this transfer window, I think Wenger dropped a clanger. Arsenal FC may prove me wrong between now and the January transfer window, but I believe they made a mistake by not picking up a suitable replacement for Almunia.

        The Gaffer

  12. Dru

    September 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I’m getting really tired of this hysteria about Almunia. Is he the best keeper in the league? No, of course not. But he’s in the top 5 or 6. He drops some clangers, but he also makes plenty of exceptional saves. Is that good enough for the Arsenal? No. BUT, as others have pointed out that also doesn’t mean we should totally go off the rails and buy any old keeper to replace him. Schawrtzer would NOT have been an improvement on Almunia. And Given, though a solid keeper, has a poor injury record. Without an available top-notch option keeping Almunia as first choice is the wise choice. Better the devil we know. So can we PLEASE stop freaking out about this over-blown “keeper crisis” and put our support behind Almuni until a better option becomes available!

  13. Paul

    September 1, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    By Wenger admitting he needed a new keeper by looking for one he basically made it public he didn’t rate Alumunia. In that case he HAD to find one. By not doing it he’s left himself in no-mans land and now has place his trust in a keeper he wanted to replace.

    Which puts further pressure on Alumunia as he knows he’s only there because Schwarzer isn’t. The word is that technically the guy is very, very good but he’s not got the big club mentality. So if he suffers from nerves I don’t see how all this is going to help.

    Whichever way you slice it this predicament isn’t clever.

    It was clear Wenger needed a replacement a year ago at least and I don’t know how the whole World saw it but he didn’t.

    He’ll have no one to blame but himself if it goes wrong.

  14. Joe Callan

    September 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    if arsenal were going for a goal keeper why schwazer he is too old and i think almunia is better why not manual neure or skeltenberg if they went for skeltenberg earlier they would have got him but they left itt too late and he was happy too stay i will name a few keepers suitable…janaskilinin from bolton.. hugo loris… sergio romero az alkmar.. manual neure skeltenberg… and i recon janaskilin and romero wud be cheper than 5mil also pls get rid of fabianski

  15. vermaelen5

    September 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Honestly Almunia hasn’t been awful so far this year. I mean, he’s a long way from my having any real confidence in him, but could the assurance that he will be the #1 for the next few months at least give him a confidence boost? (And, yes, he will be the #1 through at least January, because Fabianski is simply no competition at all.)

    • Joe Callan

      September 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

      he was brillat vs blackburn

  16. Mistaken

    September 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I dont think our defenders offer great protection last season. They have to take a good portion of the blame for goals conceeded.

  17. Seminole Gunner

    September 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I agree with the Gaffer. For a club of Arsenal’s stature to go into another season with two ticking time bomb keepers is inexcusable. Almunia and Fabianski have proven over and over that they will eventually meltdown, and Arsenal is likely not strong enough to overcome those meltdowns and still win a trophy. The defensive reinforcements were nice, but a goalkeeper should have been the top priority.

    If nothing else, Wenger should have taken a flyer on David James, who obviously would prefer having a shot at playing in the Premier League and Champions League this season to finishing up his career with Norwich City. Arsene may yet prove me wrong, but I think he just flat out botched this.

    This season will still have its fun moments of course. I think we have another top 4 quality team, and I’m not so jaded as to think finishing in the top 4 is entirely worthless. But I don’t see titles being won with such liabilities in goal.

    • Seminole Gunner

      September 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      Correction, James is at Bristol City.

    • Mark

      September 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

      Can’t forget we have rid ourselves of Silvestre and Campbell at the backend. So some better defending (and tactical changes in the midfield) this year with Djourou, Squillaci & Koscielny should go a long way to decrease the 41 goals conceded last year.

      Lets hope everyone can perform better @ set pieces, plenty of nervy moments in that Blackburn game.

  18. Jon

    September 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I agree with the majority of the commentators here, Gaffer. You’ve used some very strong and possibly inflamatory language like “inexcusable” to describe Arsenal’s transfer dealings. Those dealings are far from transparent, to the point that they are virutally opaque. You are certainly not in a position to judge what inquiries were made about what players by Arsenal, or the response of any club that was approached.

    Buying a player is not like going down to your local grocery store in Florida to buy a loaf of bread. One of the things that was made apparent this summer is that Clubs retain a massive say in whether a player is even available. Arsenal made it quite clear they were not selling Fabregas, at any price. So he did not move. Fulham were the same regarding Schwarzer, and City the same around Given. Just because Arsenal want to buy Steklenburg or Akinfeev doesn’t mean that Ajax or CSKA will even agree to talk about it. And unless the clubs themselves go to the press (something Arsenal never does), no one knows whether approaches about those keepers were made or not.

    World-class goalkeepers are a precious, precious asset. Few Clubs will part with one for any price, even an inflated one, because the role is just so vital that it can make or break a season for a team. You cannot just go out and buy one, even with months of preparation and millions of pounds on offer.

    I think it would be fair comment for you to say that the failure to sign a keeper may cost Arsenal and damage their title hopes. As an Arsenal fan I might agree or not with that statement, but it is one that we could legitimately debate based on the performances of the keepers and comparative reliablity of competitor club keepers. I think it is totally unfair for you to blast Arsenal for “inexcusable” behaviour about which you cannot possibly have all the facts.



    • The Gaffer

      September 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      I don’t have any inside information, but the fact of the matter is that Arsenal failed to pick up a new goalkeeper which they desperately needed. Based on how much of a need that is for the club, it’s inexcusable that they didn’t find one. It’s not as if this is a recent development. They’ve had plenty of time to identify a list of goalkeepers they wanted. And they ended up with nothing.

      The Gaffer

      • Jon

        September 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm

        Except that it is likely that it *is* excusable. Consider the following excuses:

        1) No one was willing to sell anyone we wanted.

        Which is pretty much what Arsene already said when he described the difficulty in the transfer market this year. We do not know how hard Arsenal looked or who they contacted. You cannot fairly call the failure to obtain a new keeper inexcusable. You can only legitimately criticise the impact that failure might have. We just don’t know how hard they tried or what they were told in response.

        • The Gaffer

          September 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm

          It’s an awful big world out there with a ton of different leagues. I find it hard to believe that Arsenal’s scouts or agents couldn’t find *one* suitable goalkeeper.

          The Gaffer

          • Joe Thompson

            September 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm

            Excluding the names bandied about in the media (i.e. Schwarzer, Given, Stekelenburg) can you name a few suitable keepers that would have been sold by their clubs since they have adequate replacements ready to step in?

            The market was pretty stale this summer, especially for keepers. Other then Boruc from Celtic to Fiorentina (which is a stretch), was there any other top flight keeper who moved?

          • Jay

            September 1, 2010 at 9:02 pm

            I disagree. When it comes to finding top class keeper, it isn’t a big world. It is a very small world, with a small number of people you would be interested in, and an even smaller number of those people who are available.

            Would I have loved to see a top class keeper brought in? Yes. It didn’t happen. I’ll get over that, but none of use out side of the club will know what really happened, and it is impossible for us to say it is inexcusable.

  19. queralless

    September 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    why didn’t they go for david james? would have been a bargain from pompey’s fire sale. granted, he’s not that great but niether is almunia.

  20. Nasri75

    September 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I don’t want Given, he is a shot stopper like Almunia and nothing, we want a keeper to come out for crosses and be dominant in the box like Schwarzer. Shay Given only decided to stay a City after he was offered more money by his club, so is that the type of player we want? no f…ing way.

  21. Avin

    September 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Almunia will improve like every player improves with added experience.. He has faced a lot of criticism and is working on the weaknesses.. And in anycase schwarzer was no better than him. I think almunia will stand up and get counted this season….

    • Chris McQuade

      September 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      De Nile is not just a river in Egypt.

    • dennis bergkamp

      September 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      I am assuming that you are not a new fan so it can be concluded that thsi firm belief that you had in almunia’s unquestionable abilities were present last season as well and the season before that and the season before that and so forth. So my question to you is, how many seasons does it take you to make up your mind on something.I am sure that by now even Almunia’s parents are convinced that they should have used rubber. On a personal note I am certain that this season is going to be the one when ironman robin van persie goes injury free.

  22. FelipeChile

    September 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I agree, totally. It’s a shame that Arsenal hasn’t pursued a real world class goalkeeper. Eduardo (the portuguese goalkeeper, who was offered by Braga!!), Stelekelenburg… I think Arsenal, once again, give away their title ambitions. I hate to love this team.

    • Aimee

      September 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      When was Carvalho offered by Braga?!!!
      He was/is a great GK! I loved him in the World Cup!

      But I hear you… I really really hate to love this team. Especially yesterday around Noon.

    • P Brown

      September 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Stekelenburg was no good cause of being cup-tied for the champions league, Arsenal did bid for Eduardo but he chose to go elsewhere instead. He’s not a EPL-type keeper anyway.

  23. Dave C

    September 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Arsenal should have signed Cudicini from Chelsea about 5 yrs ago, as soon as Cech arrived.

  24. Asmo

    September 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Attacking those weakspots, just like Blackburn did.

    You have [i]no idea[/i] what goes on behind the scenes, yet you deem this non-knowledge “inexcusable.” Cretinous.

  25. JH

    September 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Are there any free goalkeepers around??????

  26. Rob McCluskey

    September 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I doubt there were any clubs wanting to take their current goal keepers of their hands, and in that case they can’t bring someone new in because they won’t want to budget for another goal keeper on top of the ones they already have

  27. Jean-Christian

    September 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    “Arsenal’s opponents will know that the club has a definite weakspot for clubs to attack”

    Damn, you’re right. Now, all Arsenal’s opponents will start striking the ball at the goal! Someone should have seen this coming.

    Seriously, though, Arsenal should never have been interested in Schwarzer in the first place. He’s good, but he’s not enough of an improvement over Almunia to spend any money on him. In that regard, I agree with Arsenal’s / Wenger’s stance on not offering more than the player is worth to the paying club; instead, Arsenal should have been following up with the reportedly-interested Igor Akinfeev, among several others.

    • Robert

      September 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      Jean-Christian hits the nail on the head. In a day and age where clubs throw money at players somewhat potentially marginally better than what they’ve got, Arsenal does the smart think and refuses to commit millions to a keeper that may be kind of marginally better than what they have.

      Arsene is big on his younger keeper Szczesny so they didn’t need another young keeper with potential. What other available established top-line keepers were out there? Once Given was not a possibility (and he probably was never a possibility) there were very few keepers who fit Arsenal’s need: a veteran keeper who could succeed at a top-flight club while not blocking the future.

      Arsenal should have gotten someone, but who was that someone?

      • Lamby

        September 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        Marginally better???

        Are you kidding. Ask Middlesbrough – Fulham went from relegation struggler’s to top 7 (not just him – but he was probably the difference between 8th and 7th – the European Cup position), Middlesbrough were relegated without him.

        He is almost the complete keeper now – it has taken him a while. The only thing stopping him from being classed as good as Van der Sar is his ball distribution.

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