By Avenell Dave
Hands up if you were gutted that Arsenal didn’t sign a goalkeeper in the summer?
Yep, that’ll be all of us.
There is no doubt that Manuel Almunia isn’t good enough for a world class team – he is our weakest link.
But his performances haven’t been completely diabolical, he has conducted himself with typical Arsenal-esque diplomacy when he could have thrown his toys out of the pram as the club courted his successor.
As Arsene Wenger so eloquently said, when you play for Arsenal, you have to expect competition, speculation and the pressure that comes with playing for a big club.
It’s been interesting to see how Shay Given, Mark Schwarzer and Amir Begovic (not to mention Joe Hart) have played in the past fortnight – all have made mistakes that should remind us how fallible all goalkeepers are.
Even the great David Seaman let Nayim lob him from the halfway line and Gazza fire the ball where everyone but him knew it was going to go.
But on the subject of Seaman, he had indifferent and unspectacular spells at Peterborough and Birmingham, having been released at Leeds, before establishing himself at QPR and then Arsenal. Even Shay Given failed to establish himself at Blackburn before he moved to Newcastle.
It’s fair to say that keepers, like centre-backs, tend to get better with age and young starlets are few and far between.
Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon are the exception rather than the rule but there is such a thing as burning bridges with the fans.
Lukasz Fabianski came with a great reputation, hailed as the best goalkeeper in Poland and an understudy to Manuel Almunia who was going to take his place sooner rather than later.
It hasn’t worked out that way. We have way too many examples of mistakes he has made from the flaps against Ch*vski at Wembley a couple of seasons ago in the FA Cup semi final to the spills in Porto and the catalogue of disasters at Wigan to the most recent gaffe of letting a tame Robbie Keane shot through his hands on Tuesday night.
Luckily, we had enough talent and were playing a third-rate team so it didn’t matter, but I can’t help feeling that Fabianski has simply lost all confidence.
He may well turn out to be a fine goalkeeper but the fans don’t trust him anymore and maybe Arsenal is simply too big a club for him.
Whether Wojciech Szczesny is the answer remains to be seen.
Wenger clearly targeted an older keeper in the summer so as not to block the route for the talent coming through – and you have to hope that that means Szczesny rather than Fabianski.
But the former Brentford loanee has every right to be frustrated that he is not getting the chance to show what he can do and if the reports are correct that he is in the last year of his contract, Wenger needs to use Tuesday as the excuse to put the younger Pole into the Carling Cup team.
Everything I’ve heard about Szczesny suggests that he could well be our number one for years to come, but without first team games to get used to the expectation and the pressure, he is going to look elsewhere.
Moaning to the media isn’t the sort of thing that Arsenal players should do nor is it the sort of thing Wenger will appreciate.
But it was telling that Le Boss said before Tuesday that he could not give Fabianski endless second chances to prove himself and he has now run out of lives as far as most of us Addicts are concerned.
It’s simple: Szczesny must start the next Carling Cup game and the Champions League games if and when qualification and first place is confirmed.
Interestingly at today's press conference Wenger seemed to suggest that he backed the youngster despite his outburst. "He must trust us and no club has brought through more young players," said Le Boss.
Only time will tell, but with any luck the next Carling Cup game should see a new era in terms of Gunners goalies...