By Tony Attwood
Do you remember the people who filled the blogs and airwaves last season saying that we needed a goalkeeper and had to buy one for £10m? Or £20m. The trolls’ friends in the press duly obliged with stories such as “Roma to offer goalkeeper Doni to Arsenal” (Daily Mail) – the point being that Arsenal were in such a mess that they couldn’t even take a keeper who was being thrown at them.
“Caught offside” were obliging as always saying Arsenal had failed in a £7million bid to sign Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was about to join… Roma.
Then they turned the screw with “The 28-year-old has been in discussions with the Serie A giants over a possible transfer when the Gunners stepped in to hijack the move.” That makes you think Arsenal were active, but…
“The Holland international snubbed Arsenal’s move as he has already verbally agreed to join the Italian side, according to Dutch newspaper AD.
“The north London side are looking for competition for Polish duo Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski with Manuel Almunia set to leave the Emirates this summer.
“Veteran Jens Lehmann has already been released and youngster Vito Mannone attracting interest from a number of Championship clubs.
“Stekelenburg will now complete the move to the Stadio Olimpico early next week and is another player set to slip through boss Arsene Wenger’s fingers.”
Goodness, it seems ages ago now… not just the frantic “buy a keeper” now stuff, but all the “slip through the fingers” stories. Like the fact that according to the Daily Mirror, Arsène Wenger made Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer one of his priority targets in last summer’s transfer window.
But then, oh no, Arsenal were said to have put in an offer that was far too low, or offered a salary that was far too low, so the deal “slipped through Arsenal’s fingers”.
Bet 365 told us that Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina confirmed that he was the subject of a massive bid from Premier League rivals Arsenal in the summer of 2010, but Liverpool turned down a bid of £20million.
(Speaking of which you would have heard of Liverpool’s keeper problem, as they have just recalled Peter Gulacsi from a season-long loan spell at Hull, where he rubs shoulders with Mannone. Gulacsi has never made a first-team appearance for Liverpool and has not played for Hull since being injured in December. He’s on the bench because Doni and Reina are serving suspensions, so Brad Jones is all they have left at home.)
But back to us, and in fact over the last two years, if there was a goalkeeper, Arsenal were bidding for him. Here’s the Telegraph rather oddly quoting the Mirror on the subject of the Cagliari keeper:
“According to reports, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is looking at alternative goalkeeper …and his hopes of landing Marchetti have been vastly improved after his club accepted his transfer request.
“Asked about Marchetti’s future, Cagliari president, Massimo Cellino told the Mirror: “Federico has expressed a desire to leave,” he said. “The only club pushing for his signature is Arsenal and we will do everything to make him happy.”
“Wenger has made no secret of his desire for a new goalkeeper since the transfer window opened and his attentions turned to Marchetti after he had a £2million bid for Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer turned down.”
I could fill a hundred pages with such stories. Gianluigi Buffon, Odesseas Vlachidimos, Joe Hart, you name him, from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011 Arsenal wanted him – but always with the tag that when it didn’t happen the keeper “slipped through Arsenal’s fingers.”
The fact is of course we had a brilliant keeper ready and waiting, and boy was he worth waiting for. Just watching him against Wolverhampton last night showed how brilliant he was. Two saves, both exquisitely done. Total focus. Total concentration. A brilliant performance from a brilliant keeper who loves the club and is loved by the real fans – not the ones who said we had to buy.
The point is of course that had we bought a keeper last summer we would have had no chance of keeping Wojciech Szczęsny. Same is true for the summer before. He knew he was ready to play this year, and seeing another keeper come in (even a year ahead of his being ready) would have made him ask to leave.
So what happens now to the keepers? After our obvious number 1 we have Łukasz Fabiański, Vito Mannone (now at Hull on loan), Manuel Almunia (had a loan with WHU) and Damian Martinez.
How long Łukasz Fabiański will stay as number two I have no idea. Certainly if he is still with us next season he will only get cup matches and games when Fabiański is injured. Mannone did well when he had to step up before (remember that wonderful game against Fulham) but his long residency at Hull and the poor match he had when he came on in the Champs League suggests maybe he has not developed as far as imagined.
Almunia, having been number 1, is clearly not going to stay at the bottom of the pile, but I don’t know when his contract is up. He might not want to move for lower wages…. there is no word as to what will happen.
Which brings us to Martinez who has been on the bench for Carling and FA Cup games. Next season it looks like being a loan move for him – although with the usual contract deal that he can be recalled if needed.
That won’t disturb Martinez I imagine since Wojciech Szczęsny’s six-month loan at Brentford in 2009/10 was the start of his rise to stardom. And the word is out about how good our Reserve keeper actually is as following a spate of injuries Martinez was called up to the full Argentina squad last year. Not the under 18s or under 21s, the full squad.
OK, he didn’t play, but the fact that he was called up at 18 says something and a half. (Incidentally if you look him up on Arsenal’s web site you might get a bit confused since he is actually listed 3 times in the chart of games played – twice under his proper name and once with his middle name spelled wrongly. Obviously his impact is so big they list him thrice).
The key point in all this is that, as we said once before (and I remember this one because Mr Wenger quoted us the next day in a press conference), we have too many keepers. Some will have to go. My guess is that Mannone and Almunia might say farewell.
And I would also suggest that all those people who suggested that we ought to buy a keeper will now keep rather quiet about it.
Watching Wojciech Szczęsny, his skill, his larking around, his positiveness, his love of Wenger – it makes me proud to be an Arsenal fan, and proud to have seen a few of the games as the young lad made his way up to the first team.
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