Is Arséne delaying the inevitable goalkeeping decision?

By Avenell Dave

I was very interested to see Arséne Wenger’s interview regarding team news ahead of tomorrow’s match against Birmingham and his comments about the goalkeeping situation.

Arsenal have kept four clean sheets in the last five games – and that has to go down in some part to the performances of Vito Mannone.

The Italian has let in four goals in his six games and after a nervy start, has impressed me with his presence and shot-stopping.

But his form does provide Wenger with a problem.

A few years back, after some mistakes, Wenger dropped Jens Lehmann and selected Manuel Almunia.

The fact that the Spaniard made the number one position his own has not convinced a lot of Gooners brought up on the excellence of goalkeepers such as Bob Wilson, John Lukic or David Seaman.

While there’s a justifiable argument that goalkeepers don’t tend to mature until they reach the end of their 20s – with Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Shay Given notable exceptions – Almunia’s failure to inspire confidence or interest at international level says a lot about his ability or potential.

And Mannone, while he has kept goal impressively, only got his chance because Lukasz Fabianski was injured in the summer – and the Polish stopper who has a hatful of senior caps is fit again.

If Wenger is to retain his focus on being fair, Mannone has to retain the goalkeeping position until such time as he makes enough mistakes to justify his demotion.

Fabianksi, despite his potential, is a victim of timing and should wait his turn, with Almunia dropping to third in the pecking order.

Of course, that won’t happen, and Almunia may well be back between the sticks if he recovers from his chest infection by the time we kick off on Saturday.

Eduardo is still out – and I worry for him because he is a great finisher and the niggling injuries continue to endure – and who better to score against than the side that has robbed him of the best part of 18 months of his career?

I’ve got nothing against Birmingham City, but the draws we suffered against them a couple of years ago, coupled with Dudu’s injury, were the reason we didn’t win the title two years ago.

Arsenal have set the record for the most goals scored in the opening seven games of a Premiership season – and let’s hope we continue in that form on Saturday, with Vito keeping a clean sheet.