Arsene Wenger has lavished gifts upon Arsenal during his time as manager, his pretensions for the beautiful manner in which his side play football are a delight for the purist – but no longer can he use this as a shield to protect him from the critics, who cite their defensive frailty as the sole reason for an empty trophy cabinet in recent years.
On their day, Arsenal are a spectacular sight but as we have seen, when confronted by a physical presence they wilt and this must be eradicated if they are to mount a serious title challenge. Wenger has added Laurent Koscielny to his back line in order to sure things up and a bid for France international centre-back Sebastien Squillaci leaves only one final cure: a top-class goalkeeper.
Whilst the rumours continue to rumble on, current goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is in despair as a dark cloud begins to surface over his Arsenal future. But can the Spaniard really complain? For any despair endured by him should the club seal of a deal for Mark Schwarzer or Shay Given is similar to what the Emirates faithful feel when he is in goal.
Stats unfortunately offer brutal reality and Almunia was 17th in saves per shot at 87.8% last season and if, for instance, Almunia had the same save % as Van der Sar at 94.1% (5.9% allowed) then Arsenal’s league position may have benefited greatly.
Although this is perhaps not a solid base to construct an argument that Arsenal are desperate for a new goalkeeper, couple them with the high-profile errors that have dogged his time at the Emirates.
Cast your mind back last season and Arsenal fans will remember Kevin Phillips’ stoppage time equaliser at St Andrews where Almunia’s error was a source for immense frustration, blowing Arsenal’s title challenge of course.
His understudy Lukas Fabianksi aided Wigan’s late comeback and it is my belief that the lack of trophies and a class goalkeeper are inextricably linked.
Arsenal legend David Seaman has urged the club to recruit a new goalkeeper saying:
“Both Almunia and Fabianski did not end the season well. They both made mistakes in high-profile games that effectively cost them the chance of some silverware.
“It means if the quality of someone like Mark Schwarzer becomes available, then Arsene needs to look at him.
“He is a great player, tried and tested and can make saves that win you games. He is a world-class goalkeeper.”
He is right, a goalkeeper can sometimes rack up points on his own with crucial saves and the right man in the number one shirt could be the difference between a success and another exasperating season in which their defensive incapability detracts away from their beautiful footballing philosophy.