By Avenell Dave
Amongst the party that was Saturday’s victory over Blackpool, one image stands out.
At the end of the game, Manu Eboue – the Arsenal player who has shown above all others how hard work and determination can turn a player from villain to cult hero – hugged every Gunner as they left the pitch.
Everyone was celebrating, knowing that this was exactly the sort of performance to raise spirits and confound critics ahead of another season where Arsenal are not being taken seriously as title contenders.
That may well prove to be true, but in 2004 when we won the title unbeaten, we only signed Jens Lehmann and that didn’t turn out too badly, did it?
The signing of Sebastien Squillaci will add experience and grit to the defence and with Alex Song available as a fifth choice, we are well covered in the heart of the defence.
Hopefully Kyle Bartley will learn a great deal being on loan at Sheffield United this season, especially as the Blades seem to be shipping goals, and he can come back and push for a first team place next season.
But there is one piece of the jigsaw still missing, of course.
Manuel Almunia fluffed the only threat that came his way on Saturday, failing to deal with a cross which could have seen Blackpool equalise.
Great goalkeepers would have caught that ball, but he didn’t even try to do so.
His kicking was also wayward as usual and I noted that he was the least enthusiastic when Eboue greeted the players at the end.
As another Addict said, he looked like a condemned man who must be wondering what lies in store for him.
But the fact is, Almunia has never been good enough for Arsenal.
I don’t blame Arsene Wenger for wondering if, given that in general goalkeepers mature far later than other players, Almunia was simply an undiscovered diamond waiting to be given the chance to shine.
I really wanted this unknown from Spain to prove to be one of Wenger’s great discoveries, but he turned out to be nothing more than a lump of coal that burnt out before he could really glow.
While the likes of Shay Given or even Ajax’s Maarten Stekelenburg are my preferred choices, I can fully understand why Wenger wants someone like Mark Schwarzer who will provide some authority and experience for just a couple of years while Wojciech Szczesny learns his trade at a Championship club and then maybe even a Premier League team.
But with Fulham asking for an inflated transfer fee for a player who is nearer to 40 than 30, why don’t Arsenal kill two birds with one stone and offer Almunia as part of the deal?
Mark Hughes gets an experienced goalkeeper to provide competition with the young lad who seems to be doing well for them, and Arsenal get rid of a player who looks as if he will stomp around miserably if not first choice.
It also means we’ll be able to sign Aussie Schwarzer at a more reasonable price and not end up with five goalkeepers on our books.
You can be sure that if we are going to sign a keeper, the deal is likely to take until the end of the transfer window, but with the aerial bombardment that is Blackburn Rovers coming up at the weekend, we could do with all the experience and authority we can get.