While I cannot profess myself a fan of knee-jerk reactions, it would be churlish to suggest that the goalkeeping situation at Arsenal defies scrutiny. In the past week Arsenal have seen their title hopes crumble before their very eyes and whilst the squad as a whole must take responsibility, there are obvious shortcomings in the goalkeeping department.
Manuel Almunia, 32, is not a bad goalkeeper, but the inconsistent Spaniard is simply too error prone for a club the size of Arsenal. If the North London outfit wants to win major trophies, they need a goalkeeper that will win matches for the team, whilst in the case of Manuel Almunia, the opposite is often true.
Lukasz Fabianski, who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday by dropping the ball onto the head of Titus Bramble in a 3-2 defeat for the Gunners, is another player who cannot be relied upon. Fabianski has not ever gotten much of a chance at Arsenal, and at 25, still has potential to improve. However, nerves seem to get the better of the Polish shot-stopper, and Arsenal can ill-afford another season of calamity whilst the player learns the ropes at the Emirates.
Peter Hill-Wood recently gave the bi-annual ‘money to burn’ speech that he reserves for both winter and summer transfer windows, and yet Hill-Wood’s statements often appear at odds with Wenger’s interpretation of Arsenal’s financial clout. However, even if Wenger does have cash to spend this summer, Wenger could pick himself up a bargain by bidding for the much coveted Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Ochoa, 24, is the number one for both Mexico and Club América, and will be exposed on the world stage at the World Cup this summer. Ochoa was linked with a move to Manchester United in 2007, but the deal never materialized as Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak were lined up as the successors to Edwin van der Sar.
Ochoa made his debut for Club America in Mexico at the age of 18, and since 2003, the Mexican stopper has racked up an impressive 200 appearances for his side in the Mexican domestic league. At 20, Ochoa was called up to the Mexico squad for the 2006 World Cup, and was third choice goalkeeper during the tournament. However, Ochoa has since worked his way from third to first choice, and participated in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2007 Copa America for Mexico. In 2008, at just 22, Ochoa was voted the eleventh best goalkeeper in the world by FIFA, and has been Mexico’s first choice goalkeeper throughout the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Ochoa also remains the only Mexican player to have been included on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.
Ochoa would not represent a significant outlay for Wenger, with the Daily Telegraph estimating the players value at £7.5m three years ago. Ochoa would be worth significantly less today however, as he has not signed a new deal with Club America, and his current contract has just over a year left to run. If Wenger wanted to make a move for the player in the summer, Ochoa would be available for as little as three million euros, as Club America would not want to risk losing the player on a free transfer in a years time.
Arsenal may well have a hefty summer transfer budget this term, but with reinforcements required in defence and midfield, a move for Ochoa could solve Arsenal’s goalkeeping quandary relatively cheaply. Unlike Europe’s other highly rated young goalkeepers, such as CSKA’s Igor Akinfeev or Schalke 04’s Manuel Neuer, Ochoa does not have experience of Champions League football, or top flight domestic European football for that matter, and so could present a risk. However, the likes of Joe Hart, Neuer or Akinfeev, represent expensive purchases, and with regard to Akinfeev in particular, Arsenal know from experience how difficult it can be to negotiate with Russian clubs after the signing of Andrei Arshavin. Further, unlike Akinfeev, Ochoa is over 6ft tall, and so would be well suited physically to the rigours of the English game.
IM Scouting have described the player’s attributes as follows:
“There is no doubting Ochoa’s quality. He is blessed with excellent handling and is capable of some spectacular saves. Having played for a giant Mexican team and also due to his short international experience, Ochoa has the temperament to play at the highest level”.
Owing to the number of appearances he has made for Mexico, Guillermo Ochoa would have no problems attaining a work permit, whilst at just three million euros and 24 years of age, the player is a low risk signing and would be in keeping with Wenger’s transfer policy. Whilst Ochoa’s signing might go against Wenger’s philosophy of protecting young players, something must be done regarding the goalkeeping situation at the club, and if Wenger doesn’t act quickly, the player could slip through Wenger’s fingers…
Check out footage of Ochoa on Mexican TV below
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