As the end of the transfer window drew nearer on Tuesday, Arsenal fans were becoming increasingly forlorn as their hopes of signing a goalkeeper dwindled by the minute. It became clear early on that Arsene Wenger would not be conducting any business on the final day of the transfer window, but some fans still had a faint hope that the manager would rectify what is a glaringly obvious weak point in his side.
At the start of the summer their were two priority positions that needed strengthening; central defence and goalkeeper. The former was solved, with Wenger bringing in French defenders Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci. It seemed for a long time that the goalkeeping problem would also be solved, with Mark Schwarzer being heavily linked with the club and the Australian himself announcing his desire to move to the Emirates. As the deadline grew closer though, no moves were made and Gunners fans grew more and more concerned at the lack of a signing. Their fears were well founded, and Wenger has taken a huge gamble this season by not signing a new goalkeeper, and it may well be one that comes back to haunt him.
Manuel Almunia has never been a fans favourite, and for a number of years now the vast majority have concluded that he is simply not good enough for a team that should be challenging for the top honours. If his poor form in previous seasons was not enough to convince Wenger, one only had to look at his abject display against Liverpool to be satisfied that the Spaniard should be replaced. Almunia’s immediate understudy Lukasz Fabianski has also failed to impress in his Arsenal career to date, picking up the unfortunate nickname ‘Flapianski’ for his entirely unconvincing performances. Arsenal’s other goalkeepers, Vito Mannone and especially Wojciech Szceszny are tipped for big futures but are still very young, and Wenger obviously does not think they are ready for a season of first team action.
The signing of a goalkeeper was seen by many as a given, surely Wenger could not ignore his current crop of goalkeepers’ shortcomings any longer? Apparently he could. Though for some time it did look like Arsenal fans wishes would come true, with the club being linked to moves for Mark Schwarzer and Shay Given. Given especially would have been a fantastic signing, no longer first choice at Eastlands surely a solid bid would have been considered by Roberto Mancini. Schwarzer is not getting any younger but his performances for Fulham last season were excellent, and he would have been a definite improvement on Almunia. The transfer of a goalkeeper never materialised however, and now Arsenal fans will be desperately hoping Almunia can show some better form than he has done previously.
Arsene Wenger is much loved and rightly so by Arsenal fans, but even his most ardent admirers will be questioning the Frenchman’s decision not to sign a keeper come the end of the season if Arsenal have gone another year without a trophy. Wenger obviously has faith in Almunia, but the Spaniard will have to show a real turn-around in form if he is to justify this. Fabianski and Mannone will have chances to impress this season, but maybe Arsenal’s hottest goalkeeping prospect should be given a chance; Wojciech Szczesny is very highly rated but is only 20 years old. However, Spain number one Iker Casillas started playing regularly for Real Madrid at the age of 18 and if a player is good enough, it does not matter how old they are. In the absence of a top-quality senior goalkeeper, giving Szczesny a chance may be the best way forward for Arsenal this season.