It doesn’t take a genius to work out where the Gunners have been misfiring this season past. With nine losses last term, they were well off the pace for the majority of the season inevitably culminating in Arsene Wenger’s young charges finishing a whopping 11 points shy of title-winners Chelsea.
The man in charge at the Emirates would be the first to admit that conceding nearly 40 goals over a season is not title-winning form and it’s blatantly obvious to see where they’ve come undone in yet another trophyless season for the North Londoners.
Arsenal struggled to string together a run of more than three or four wins in a row and after slumping to costly defeats in three of their last five matches at Tottenham, Wigan and Blackburn, voices of discontent have been getting louder and louder from the Gunners’ faithful.
Wenger has duly pointed the finger at both his senior ‘keepers – Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski – identifying them as the weakest links and lacking consistency between the sticks.
He has a point as both glovemen have struggled for form this term and who can forget Fabianski palming the ball into his own net at Ewood Park or Almunia’s now trademark flapping over crosses.
Arsenal must replace this substandard pair if they are to remain competitive and finding a new ‘keeper must be Wenger’s no1 priority. Rather than looking for a cut-price option, Wenger must be prepared to part with serious money for a top-draw ‘keeper or he will fail to end his sides’ five year trophy drought.
Let’s assess his options. He is reportedly interested in signing Blackburn Rovers’ Paul Robinson. Not a bad choice as he has undeniably enjoyed a dramatic upsurge in his form since signing from Tottenham in 2008. He has, however, been overlooked by Fabio Capello in his provisional England World Cup squad but at 30 he may yet be offered another chance.
How about Lyon’s Hugo Lloris? He certainly has pedigree as reigning ‘Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year’ and France’s first-choice shot-stopper. At just 23, Wenger has every chance of recouping his investment and he has already earned the praise of the UK media for his performance during the French side’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in the Champions League.
Alternatively, he could make an audacious bid for the vastly experienced Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus. He has a World Cup winners’ medal among his glittering trophy haul and has expressed a wish to move to the Premiership should the Italian club be willing to release him.
But Jo Hart appears to be the outstanding candidate and looks likely to be Arsenal’s main priority. He would no doubt be a shrewd investment if they can prise him away from Eastland’s and a manager who is under no pressure to sell. The England hopeful, voted into the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Premier League team of the year last week, has enjoyed an impressive campaign on loan at Birmingham City – keeping 12 clean sheets along the way, and is staking a late claim for a trip to South Africa and the World Cup.
Shay Given’s dislocated shoulder could put the kybosh on any deal though as Mancini is expected to turn to Hart to step in for the five months that Given is expected to be sidelined for.
Is Wenger prepared to wait? Watch this space.
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