So the clock struck 6, and with the closing of the transfer window there was closure on Manuel Almunia’s immediate future at Arsenal. Not because he has redeemed himself with heroic displays that would make Peter Schmeichel quiver, but because his team failed in their attempts to secure the services of Mark Schwarzer.
Part of the reason they couldn’t get their hands (or gloves) on the Australian, was that Shay Given turned down the chance of a move to Fulham. But surely Arsene Wenger was missing a trick in the pursuit of Fulhams’s keeper on the basis that they in turn could get Given. Why not go for Given in the first place?
Shay Given decided to fight for his place at Man City and try to dislodge Joe Hart after meetings with Roberto Mancini. He moved to City in the first place for the opportunity to win trophies, and it was this that ultimately swayed his decision in favour of staying at his current club. After reassurances from Ireland boss Giovanni Trappatoni that his position for the national team wouldn’t be under threat should he struggle for game time at Eastlands, it is understandable that he may have wanted to remain at the bigger club.
There were tabloid murmurs that Arsenal were interested in Given, but maybe that’s all it was – no concrete offer. Every time I try and rationalise in my head why Wenger didn’t do everything in his power to get Given, I can’t figure it out. Given is younger than Schwarzer, as well as being a better keeper to start with. He would have cost more money, but it would have surely been worth it.
Wenger has policies regarding how much money is spent on transfer fees and wages, as well as the length of contracts offered to players over 30. They have made exceptions, most recently with Sebastien Squillaci, when they deem it necessary, and if ever there was a need for a signing at the club, it must be now. Now since Jens Lehmann’s peak, have Arsenal enjoyed a degree of consistent authority behind their backline.
If Given wanted the opportunity to win trophies, then he would have a similar chance to do that at Arsenal as he does at City, not to mention the lure of the Champions League. It was one of those moves that seemed to make so much sense for all the parties involved. The main stumbling block would have potentially been City’s reluctance to sell a top player to a rival club, but that is something they will have to accept more and more with the turnover of players that they will go through over the coming years.
I am willing to concede that my inside track on the possible ins and outs of potential deals is about as limited as Sir Alex’s BBC interviews, so maybe the Gunners did make an attempt that was turned away immediately. If Given was aware of their interest and believed it to be genuine, I would assume the chances are he would consider the move.
Arsenal fans must be used to their ears bleeding with talk from opposing fans, pundits, players, even themselves, about the lack of some sturdiness at the back. And a team that has invested in defenders over the summer, could have been far stingier outfit with someone of Given’s qualities behind. There would be little adapting, as he is a seasoned performer in the Premier League, and having turned 34 in April, still has at least three of four years at the top of his game.
His transfer fee would have been fairly substantial, but nothing bank-breaking, and certainly worth the fee. I can’t help feeling Arsenal have missed an opportunity to build a defence with extremely solid foundations. Exceptions to rules exist, and Shay Given moving to Arsenal would have done both the world of good.
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