The Arsenal goalie situation: Loyalty…..against all odds
Thank God its Friday.
If I allocate 1 point to Arsenal for every time I wake up with a stuffy nose in Abuja, we would be the Premier League champions with a record number of points.
But as always, the nose gets cleared up on its own. Besides, its my fingers that do the blogging not the nose.
Today’s blog post is dedicated to our only fit goalie, Manuel Rivero Almunia.
He was born on the 19th of May, 1977 in the city of Pamplona, Spain.
After spending 8 years in 6 different Spanish sides, he was signed for £2.6m in 2004. In his early years at Arsenal, he played as a 2nd fiddle to Mad Jens Lehmann. He was termed our “cup” keeper because he featured more in the Carling Spoon and FA Cup. He won his 1st and only medal in 2005. That was our last piece of silverware. The FA Cup.
His breakthrough season was undoubtedly the 2007/08 campaign. That was the year I thought that we would win the league. The Champions League was lost in acrimonious circumstances, we were whooped in the FA Cup by Man Utd because AW the Alchemist took a “gamble” and the way we lost our winning position in the league was shameful. At February we were 5 points ahead of United and 8 points ahead of the Cashlings. We capitulated from within and finished the league in 3rd place. Almunia did really well in that campaign. Maybe it was the blonde hair.
Mad Jens left to Stuttgart in the summer so the number 1 jersey belonged to Almunia. Knowing fully well that his place wasn’t threatened by the then-error prone Fabianski, complacency started creeping in to Almunia’s game. However, he was a vital part of the Arsenal side that had an impregnable home record in the Champions League. Arsenal were paired in a group containing FC Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev. The home ties were 4-0, 0-0 and 1-0 respectively. Arsenal beat Roma 1-0 at the Emirates and won on penalties in the 2nd leg. Arsenal then drew away in the 1/4 final against Villarreal before thumping them 3-0 at home. Mad Jens clean sheet record stood at 10 games. Almunia on the other hand had 5 consecutive clean sheets at the Emirates. Eventual runners-up Red Hell Owners shattered Almunia’s record to bits. That CR7 40-yard free kick still haunts me from time to time.
What makes makes me gnash my teeth is that Porto got a well deserved 2-2 in Old Strafford but lost through that surface-to-goal missile by CR7.
I actually hosted a party when CR7 was sold to Madrid. Like Thierry “Igwe” Henry before him, CR7 was a tormentor in chief to Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League teams. I was also ecstatic when a Rooney exit seemed on the cards but the sly fox used his exit claims to get a very fat salary.
The 2009/10 season was an on and off season for Almunia. He was blameless in the Champions League exit in the hands of Barca. His deputy Fabianski was between the sticks when we were knocked out of the Carling Spoon and FA Cup. All we had to fight for was the league but Almunia and Fabianski played their part in yet another trophyless campaign. The way Danny Rose’s shot passed through Almunia’s hands was questionable. Fabianski’s inability to deal with a routine corner cost us the game against Wigan.
The frustrations of the fans was well known to AW the Alchemist so he made it clear that he needed a new custodian between the sticks in the forthcoming season.
The media Vultures played their part in linking us to keepers from all over the Milky Way. This even caused the official Arsenal site to create a new column called “Transfer Leaked”.
Goalies like Lloris and Buffon were out of our reach so AW the Alchemist set his sights on the only Aussie that has been keeping since the pre-historic era Sir Schwarzer. At 38, he was probably needed for a season or two so AW the Alchemist took a stand with his £2m bids. Fulham rejected both offers so we had to stick with what we had.
The goal he conceded to the Gong in Anfield Transylvania was put under question. A routine clean sheet against Blackpool followed. He was also relatively untroubled against Champions League newbies Braga. He then put up a brilliant performance away to Blackburn.
When recently promoted WBA came to town we expected a routine win. Almunia got injured when he clashed with Odemwingie but he took the wrong decision to stay on the pitch instead of relinquishing his place to Fabianski at half time. His second half performance cost him his place.
While Fabianski staked his claim as Arsenal’s no 1. Almunia spent a considerable time out injured. Out of the blue, Wojciech Szczesny emerged. His performances earned him a new contract and also indicated that Almunia had dropped two places down the pecking order.
With the January transfer window around the corner, AW the Alchemist told all interested parties that Almunia was available for a knockdown price of £1.5m. To be frank at that point, I wanted Almunia to take the offer from Malaga or Galatasaray because he’s approaching the twilight years of his career.
Instead of crying to the media Vultures about how is place had been lost, Stainless Steel spent his time in our physio room regaining his fitness.
Fabianski’s shoulder injury meant that he had climbed one place to number 2. Now that Szczesny’s injured, who are we running to? The same man we regarded as an outcast, Manuel Rivero Almunia.
When Saturn head Alves dislocated Szczesny’s finger with that free kick. I saw a goalie with beards running into the pitch and wearing his gloves like a kid that has been dying for his chance.
The first goal was conceded to a player that has his own footballing planet. The second conceded was to a midfield demigod. The third conceded was to that wizard.
He still made a considerable amount of saves and put his body on the line like his life depended on it.
Szcsesny has been diagnosed to spend 6 weeks out. If he goes for a surgery, he’s short season will be over.
This will mean that we’ll have no other choice than to stick to our SpanEnglish goalie, Manuel Almunia.
The soft spoken and mature man who remained loyal to Arsenal FC
Against all odds.
The FA Cup preview comes up in tomorrow’s post.