Szczesny, come on down and save our season – written by London

September 2, 2010

The idea, believed by some, that Szczesny is waiting in the wings ready to swoop down and save our season makes me laugh; in fact, I find it ridiculous.

I am as excited as anyone about his future prospects but to have him playing in the first team now on the back of one good season at Brentford is foolish beyond hope.

Yes, I am aware of all the glowing reports from our west London neighbours, one of my best friends is a season ticket holder and was telling me that the commonly held view was that he is the best goalkeeper they have ever seen. The trouble with that is, I couldn’t help asking myself, when I first heard it, when was the last time that they had a decent player in their ranks to really compare him with. To say that the bar is set at a low level is an understatement of some magnitude. This is Brentford we are talking about not Juventus or some such club where he would have got a real test.

This situation reminds me of the time a couple seasons ago when Denilson had just started to appear in the CC; he played alongside Diaby in many games and shone. The Brazilian was hailed as yet another hidden gem uncovered by Wenger and demands of first team football were the order of the day.

Denilson got the chance to play in the League; in fact, he has played so many games familiarity has bred contempt to the point where his performances are now criticised as is Wenger for picking him.

What many people have forgotten is the reason he got his chance in the first place and why he has played so many games is due to injuries and not as many people perceive to be Wenger’s obstinacy. The Brazilian initially made it into the first team because of injuries to Diaby and Gilberto and it is worth remembering that when Bert returned he was pants so Denilson rightly moved up the pecking order. With the re-emergence of Diaby, Denilson has moved back down; although, the more observant will have noticed that when Ramsey was fit the Brazilian was behind him on the bench. We could debate this until the ends of the earth but the point I am making is that, although, Denilson got his chance due to some impressive performances in the CC he got most of them due to injuries.  I expect Denilson to now evolve into the first team at a more suitable pace.

The connection between Szczesny and Denilson is that I see the same fate waiting just around the corner for the Pole as the young Brazilian has endured; a couple of immature slips and people will be calling for his head.

We are in the doldrums of a two week International break, there are blogs out there that pride themselves on putting out a fresh post every day, nothing wrong with that except as the days slowly roll by it gets harder and harder to find something positive to say and the temptation to take the far easier option of negativity becomes greater and greater; but, just before that stage arrives blogs try and play the, we should give the youngsters a go, card and it never ceases to surprise me how many people are only too eager to jump on the band wagon.

Szczesny will be called for by people who care more about their blogs than they do about the good of Arsenal, it will be your choice as to whether you agree — I don’t — too much expectation too early in a career can be very damaging, just ask Denilson.

Written by London, picture by Rasp.


Almunia; Dead Man Walking? ….. and the real stats

August 18, 2010

Since two writers have submitted posts giving their particular angle on Manuel Almunia, we have decided to publish them both to demonstrate how views can contrast and stats can prove anything!

A view on Almunia written by 26may1989

What must be going through the mind of Manuel Almunia? We’re all frustrated and annoyed that the new keeper Wenger is after hadn’t been secured before the season’s opening, but I guess the point of this post is to try to look at this situation from Almunia’s point of view.

Whatever we think of his ability to be our first choice keeper, and I am very much of the view that he doesn’t have what it takes technically, Almunia has consistently shown himself to be a man of dignity and modesty. Unlike his predecessor, Jens Lehmann, or the man who has led the defence in front of him over the last two or three years, William Gallas, Almunia is a genuine team player. He has also undoubtedly improved his game over the last few years, and while not good enough, is not nearly as bad as many would claim.

But he and we know the reality. Almunia is the footballing equivalent of a dead man walking. It’s now a matter of record that Arsenal have officially bid for at least one other keeper, Mark Schwarzer, who would be an improvement on Almunia but not dramatically so. Whether or not Schwarzer joins us, Almunia knows his days as first choice are numbered, and quite rightly it seems he would leave Arsenal rather than resume duties as a back-up keeper.

However, we went into last weekend with a tough and difficult opening match depending on Almunia, a man who can only feel undermined and threatened by what has happened this summer. There’s no point whingeing about the situation, it is what it is now, and it’s obvious Wenger didn’t want this situation to have come about any more than we did. I just hope Almunia’s professional pride enables him to put any feelings of frustration and alienation to one side – he may even be motivated by a degree of defiance.

I feel for Almunia being in this situation but I also believe he has the strength of character to give his best for as long as he’s Arsenal’s number one.

What the stats say by GunnerN5

Most of us have agonized over our goalkeeping for several seasons,  really since the much maligned Jens left us, boy how we would like him back now. This chart shows just how  bad our main man Almunia really was last season.

Unfortunately the complete range of stats cannot be reproduced in the chart above, but the decisive conclusions are as follows:

Almunia was 17th in saves per shot at 87.8% and 8th on amount of goals allowed at 31. What is really surprising is that our defense only allowed 254 shots against Almunia in his 29 games. This (among this group of keepers) was the 5th lowest amount for the season and the lowest shots against per game at only 9. To the writer this indicates that our defense was not as suspect as perhaps we thought and that our goalkeeping was worse than thought.

If, for instance, Almunia had  the same save % as Van der Sar at 94.1% (5.9% allowed) then he would only have let in 15 goals and we would, have most likely, won the league.

I know stats are simply stats but this chart really shows just how bad Almunia was and although Fabianski and Mannone are not shown they were no better.

Hart, Schwarzer and Given were all better than any of our lot!!