What Next for Arsenal’s Keepers?
With Wojciech Szcezny, Lukasz Fabianski, and Vito Mannone all injured and out for the foreseeable future, Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation has again been thrust into doubt. Manuel Almunia began the season as the number one, albeit precariously, and it wasn’t long before Lukasz Fabianski staked his claim after just 5 league starts from the Spaniard, and got a run of games from mid-September until the new year. His performances in 14 Premier League matches were mixed. The Polish international looked better than in previous seasons, when errors and mishaps were unfortunately common, but most pundits and fans alike agreed that a world-class keeper was still needed for Arsenal to win trophies.
A season-ending shoulder injury saw young countryman Wojciech Szcezny given his chance between the sticks, and the youth product seized the opportunity with both hands, putting in an impressive string of displays. Despite being just 20 years of age, the Pole was assured and confident, finally giving Gunners supporters a sense of confidence in their keeper. His miscommunication with Laurent Kosciely in the Carling Cup final did prove disastrous, and a severe broken finger suffered in the first 20 minutes against Barcelona at the Nou Camp could potentially end his season as well.
Vito Mannone has impressed during spot duty over the past few years, but the Italian found himself the odd man out as he was loaned out to Hull City for the season, and an injury suffered there rules him out for the rest of the campaign as well. This leaves Arsene Wenger with Almunia, who mustn’t be high on confidence following his benching and lack of playing time, and 19 year old James Shea, who has made the match-day squad a few times this year but is yet to feature for the first team.
Almunia has performed admirably against Barcelona and Manchester United, but Wenger will surely be looking to bring in an emergency loan for cover, or perhaps to challenge for the number one spot with Almunia’s shaky form in recent seasons. Jens Lehmann has been brought up, considering his history with the club and because he is a free agent, having retired at the end of the last season. The German is undoubtedly a club legend, but with his best years behind him it seems he would be a back up at best. However, his passion could give the Gunners the mental edge to kick on and prove their doubters wrong, especially if he started. This is the most likely option considering Lehmann is currently with the club studying for his coaching degrees. He would seem the most likely candidate to fill the void, despite his age and likely diminished skills.
Shay Given was touted as a potential January signing, but the Irishman will also miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, and Manchester City were not likely to help out their rivals in any case, so a temporary loan move seems unlikely. The summer could see a major overhaul in the goalkeeping department; Szcezny has proven himself to be a very bright prospect indeed, but if Arsenal cannot capture the league title the pressure will be on Wenger to buy an established top class keeper like Given or Pepe Reina, who has recently refused to commit his long-term future to the Reds.
An up and coming younger keeper like David De Gea, Manuel Neuer, or Asmir Begovic could also be a possibility, but with Szcezny showing promise, a veteran who could come in for a few years like Given did at Manchester City is probably preferable. Vito Mannone is 23, and with the presence of other young keepers and a lack of opportunities (9 first team appearances since 2009), could move on to new pastures. Either Almunia and Fabianski could also be sold to raise funds, maybe even both if Wenger can find another established keeper, and totally overhaul the team.
What do you think Arsene Wenger should do with regards to the goalkeeping position? Leave your comments below…
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