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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Much will be written in the coming days about Arsene Wenger and his perceived ‘blind spot’ for goalkeepers. It is the death knell for thousands of trees, all doomed to slaughter just so that we can be told that one of the finest managers in the history of the Premier League cannot even recognise one of the pivotal tools of his trade. It’s an intriguing argument, but it doesn‘t really stand up to close scrutiny. Wenger is as adept at recognising goalkeepers as any of his rivals. The problem, as it often tends to be at The Emirates, is his dogmatic faith in his young players. Loyalty is an admirable trait, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of objective judgement.

Wenger was fortunate enough to inherit the last of the great English goalkeepers, David Seaman, when he arrived at the club in 1996, but he was also clever enough to show him the door in 2003 when his frailties became too obvious. Jens Lehmann, his fiery replacement, won a Championship medal in his first season, keeping goal in that famous unbeaten campaign. Lehmann could be erratic and temperamental, but he was a fearsome sight for any goal-bound striker and it would be a callous observer who deemed his five year spell at the club as anything other than a success.

Less impressive has been the tenure of Manuel Almunia, the peroxide-loving Spaniard who was plucked from obscurity in 2004 as back-up for Lehmann, but even he can hardly be described as an incompetent. Almunia is a fine shot-stopper and is more comfortable with aerial balls than many of his rivals in the Premier League. He is not as quick-witted as Petr Cech, as composed as Edwin Van der Sar or as reliable as Pepe Reina, but he rarely makes howlers and he does his job without fuss. A perfect number two, in other words.

Certainly, Wenger has made his mistakes. Richard Wright was never quite as good as the late-90s hype suggested and few will look kindly upon the awkward Rami Shaaban or the unfulfilled potential of Alex Manninger, but the Frenchman is hardly alone in his errors. Anyone remember Sander Westerveld? Or Massimo Taibi? The truth is that a good goalkeeper is hard to find and expensive to buy. Hugo Lloris looks impressive at Lyon and Manchester United are heavily linked with CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, but there is no guarantee that either will succeed in the physical battleground of the English Premier League.

Wenger’s critics will pounce upon the failures of Fabianski, but the truth is that Arsenal’s manager has more a pressing problem. It’s not his judgement of goalkeepers that should be in question, it’s his faith in his home-grown players. He thinks very highly of Lukasz Fabianki, in much the same way that he rates Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Fran Merida and Alex Song, and no wonder, they’re all talented youngsters. But none of them have yet proved that they are world class professionals, capable of winning the biggest prizes. Perhaps Wenger should have invested heavily in a big-name goalkeeper. Perhaps, after the events in Portugal, he will now consider it. But don’t let this episode convince you that he can’t spot talent. Spotting it really isn’t the problem.


Life President
May 29, 2005
I thought Arsenal were highly interested in the young German Manuel Neuer? He'd certainly be an adequate number 1 from what I've seen of him.


Putting the 2 howlers to one side, I thought that Fabianski had a decent game. The ITV commentators said that he shouldn't have given the ball to the ref for the freekick. What was he suppose to do? Run off with the ball, kick it 50 yards away.


Dec 10, 2006
Petr Cech has lost his bottle. Van Der Saar is getting old. Reina will always be remebered for 'balloon boy'. All the top 4 have goalkeeping problems of some sort or other.

The truth is that the 2 best goalkeepers in the prem league play for two of the teams looking to break the top 4 monopoly. Brad Friedel and Shay Given, take a bow...