By Tony Attwood
Starting with Petr Čech of course the big question is which musical instrument does he play? And the answer is percussion.
which should indeed give us confidence.
The potential arrival of a new goalkeeper (which may well have been confirmed by the time you read this or alternatively been proven to be complete and absolute rubbish, and I want you to remember that you first read it here that the deal was yet another invention) leads me to think of Arsenal and goalkeepers.
The story is that Wenger has a blind spot for keepers. But in reality, utterly reliable goalkeepers are hard to find, and last year’s player of the year can be this year’s “I’d sell him if anyone would take him off my hands”. Just look at Vito Mannone, once of Arsenal.
In the 2nd leg of the semi-final tie against Man U of the league cup in 2014 Mannone saved two penalties in the penalty shoot out and took Sunderland to Wembley. On 22 April 2014, Mannone was named Sunderland Supporters Player of the Year. On 29 May 2014, he was named the clubs official Player of the Year.
He was the obvious first choice until 18 October 2014 when he let in eight against Southampton (who at the time we were reliably informed were going into the Champions League in 2015). Although reports said that it was the defence not the keeper at fault, he lost his place and hasn’t regained it.
But he was an Arsenal keeper and Wenger can’t pick keepers, according to many reports. Or should that be that Arsenal can’t pick keepers but can pick up keepers. After all in 1973 Tottenham’s goalkeeper of the day won the Football Wrtiers player of the year award. In 1976 the same guy got the PFA award, the first goalkeeper ever to get it.
Then in August 1977 Tottenham sold him to Arsenal thinking he was far past his prime. And he stayed with Arsenal for eight years, playing in four cup finals making 327 appearances for Arsenal, 237 of them in the League. On 26 February 1983, he became the first player in the senior English game to play 1000 games.
OK, so maybe north London can’t judge who is and who isn’t a good goalkeeper and who will last.
Or… maybe we only get good goalkeepers when we get them from London. Perhaps that is the lesson that the manager has learned. Jennings as noted came from the Tiny Totts. David Seaman, of whom it has been said, came from QPR for £1 million in 1990.
He was the man behind the famous back four, of whom it has also been said, and under the present manager he was the keeper who won two Doubles, and then in his very last match, another FA Cup.
Which reminds us of Mr Wenger’s goalkeeping most famous signing: Jens Lehmann, the only goalkeeper in top division history to have played in every game of a season and never once been on the losing side. In short, the only Invincible who played every game.
His signing as I recall was no big deal, costing £1.5 million from Borussia Dortmund which resulted in numerous comments about how, if he was a decent keeper he would cost a lot more than that. But he turned out to be good enough to be an Invincible.
Ah, but look at all the other goalkeepers Wenger has signed, people say. To which I say, take a look at your history books.
Herbert Chapman used nine goalkeepers during his nine seasons at Arsenal which is quite a lot really especially since there were no substitutes in those days, although to be fair they did pick up more injuries.
Chapman kept two of the keepers used by his predecessor (Robson and Lewis) but then used three keepers in each and every season of his tenure save the last two, in which he used two.
And this wasn’t just a question of injuries. In the championship year of 1930/1 Arsenal started with Keyser, had a sensational start to the season, played him for 12 games and then dropped him, for no footballing reason we can now discern, and for Keyser not to be seen again.
In fact it took seven years to Chapman to sign his one great keeper – Frank Moss.
Which brings us back to the reality. Finding very good goalkeepers is tough. Certainly Čech has been very good: he holds the Premier League record for fewest games required to reach 100 clean sheets (180), and the Czech professional league record of not conceding a goal in 903 competitive minutes. Indeed during 2004/5 Čech went 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal – a Premier League record, at the time.
But that then takes us back to other memories. Like Alex Manninger.
During 1997/8 he took over from Seaman who was injured, and had six clean sheets in a row including in the last match the 0-1 win at Old Trafford.
In March 1998, he was named Premier League Player of the Month. Then Seaman came back and immediately Manninger was dropped even though he played that significant part in us winning the double.
All of which is to say, when it comes to judging goalkeepers, I am not really sure who can do it, apart from with the luxury of looking backwards. If, as seems the case, Ospina is to make way (perhaps because of the home grown rule) then someone at some time in the future will look at the record of Ospina in goal for Arsenal and wonder how we could let go a player who had such a terrific record.
I’ll also miss him, if he is going, because I think he had the best chant / song / shout I’ve heard in a long time. And because I think he is a superb keeper. But then clean sheets and victories really has not much to do with it, as Alex Manninger’s achievement showed us.
One last time (maybe): Oooooooooooooooooooooooooopina!
Anniversary of the day
23 June 1976: Patrick Vieira born in Dakar, Senegal. Qualifying for French citizenship he played for Cannes, and made two appearances for Milan before they unexpectedly released him, and Mr Wenger bought him, while he was still managing in Japan.
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