No one, not even Arsene Wenger himself, will deny that Arsenal goalkeepers have performed like medieval jesters in recent years. By plodding up and down the goal-line like certifiable loons, flapping manically at magical, mischievous floating spheres, and by demonstrating a severe lack of any significant intelligence, Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski have sought to conspire against the Gunners title hopes.
It’s always been said that you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper. On recent evidence, it appears that Arsenal have adopted folklore and fully developed it into a coaching criterion.
But despair no more Arsenal fans! For merrily does Arsene reach for yonder chequebook and ponder for a suitable replacement…
Mark Schwarzer is the name in the frame. A man with a quality pedigree for sure. His reputation as a safe pair of hands reached new heights following his switch to Fulham from Middlesbrough in 2008, as he kept ten clean sheets in his first season at the club. He was also a substantial factor in taking the Cottagers to the Europa League final a couple of weeks ago.
The area for concern is the Aussie ‘keeper’s age. At 37, it’s debatable whether we have already seen the shot-stopper at his very best. However, Wenger has always been a sucker for a bargain, and considering his age and the fact that he only has one more year on his Fulham contract remaining, the Arsenal manager may just cut a deal at a good price to serve as a temporary stop-gap while his 20-year-old Polish goalkeeping prodigy Wojciech Szcznesny (Clive Tyldesley should have fun with that one) finds his legs.
But hark! Doest thou hear the groans of Gunners who desire a more significant and immediate solution?
Well, Arsenal have also been reportedly looking at a more permanent number one. AZ Alkmaar’s 23-year-old ‘keeper Sergio Romero has been linked with the club along with 25-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk stopper Andriy Pyatov – who aided Donetsk to UEFA Cup glory the season before last. Neither are exactly knights in shining armour, but compared the village idiots currently in occupation, both would be an improvement, particularly Pyatov who has quickly become an integral part to the Ukrainian international side.
Another promising number one, Manuel Neuer, has similarly been – if rather tenuously – connected to the London club. Neuer, despite being 24, has already secured himself as German side Schalke’s first choice goalkeeper. This season he helped guide his club to second in the Bundesliga but it was his impressive showing at the 2009 Under-21 European Championships – when Germany of course beat England in the final – that highlighted his potential and attracted the interest of numerous clubs. Arsenal will have some competition to secure his signature with Bayern Munich the favourites to take him on once he decides to leave Schalke.
The problem with those three options is, inevitably, money. Should Arsene be content to continue his shrewd conservatism, Arsenal fans could find themselves frustrated once again. If that is destined to be the case, the least Arsene could do is lock his current two madcap ‘keepers in stocks outside the Emirates and encourage passersby to throw eggs, tomatoes, and anything else that comes to hand. A brick, perhaps.
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