As Carlos Vela’s exquisite chip gave Arsenal a 4-0 win against Fulham and a third place finish on May the 9th, their supporters thoughts turned immediately to the 2010-2011 campaign. At the top of the rather lengthy agenda was the number 1, something that has plagued the club ever since the departure of David Seaman in 2003.
Some fans were so concerned about the shortcomings of the incumbent Manuel Almunia and his understudy Lucasz Fabianski that they planned to protest if either man was the starting goalkeeper at the Emirates Cup. Now that the annual pre season tournament is just a week away, should Arsenal supporters be worried about Arsene Wenger’s apparent lack of concern? History suggests they should be.
You see, Championship winning teams almost always have world class goalkeepers. Just look at the champions of the major European leagues. Inter Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea all boast stoppers who can make a genuine case for being the best in their position in their respective leagues.
Arsenal fans may point to the unbeaten team of 2003-2004 (when Jens Lehmann played almost every game), but that was an exceptional squad with outstanding players in almost every other position.
How many of the current crop would get into the starting line up for The Invincibles? Fabregas would be the only definite, with Robin Van Persie possibly troubling a 35 year old Dennis Bergkamp for his place. Besides, the closest competitors that season hardly had unbeatable keepers of their own – Fabien Barthez was clumsy and brilliant in equal measures, whilst Carlo Cudicini was probably the best the league had to offer.
Since the season ended in May, Arsenal have been linked with everyone from Gianluigi Buffon to Shay Given. Even the addition of Joe Hart would be an improvement, but the past tells us that only a top tier goalkeeper would be enough to elevate the Gunners to genuine title contenders.
The chances of Arsenal recruiting somebody of the quality of Petr Cech, Iker Casillas or Julio Cesar however are less than zero. So then you have to start looking at the next tier, and the likes of Sebastian Frey, Joe Hart and Hugo Lloris. Even then you are faced with obstacles.
Lyon, due to their financial stability, are in no need to sell, whilst Manchester City would be daft to do business with one of their close rivals. Frey on the other hand looks likely to leave Fiorentina after the Italian club completed the signing of Artur Boruc from Celtic last week.
It seems to be looking increasingly likely though that the “anyone but Almunia or Fabianski” brigade will have to settle for the man who conceded four against them on the final day of last season, Mark Schwarzer. Sceptics will point to the Australian’s age (he will turn 38 in October) as a reason to avoid him, but he is at least an improvement on what is already at the club, and he would also give the highly regarded Wojciech Szczesny another season to prepare himself for the demands of the Premier League.
Are you a disgruntled Gunner? Are you heading to the Emirates Cup next weekend? Will you protest if Wenger hasn’t signed a keeper by then? Give us your thought in your comment below.