Wilshere Makes his Return and Almunia Talks about Arsenal’s Goalies
The last time I saw Jack Wilshere kick the ball for Arsenal, he wore a Arsenal’s navy blue outfit in an Emirates Cup encounter against Boca Juniors in July 2011. We had learned that he had suffered a stress fracture to his ankle and he was going to be out for a long time…no one told us that it would last this long though.
While it was obvious that he wasn’t going to play any time soon for the Gunners, Fabio Capello and Stuart Pearce were hopeful that he was going to recover in time to feature in the European Championships as well as the Olympic Games, as he had reiterated his desire to be that of the once-in-a-lifetime Team Great Britain squad.
Of course, there were more niggling injuries and setbacks but the club remained patient because they’ve been there and done that with players out with long-term injuries – Robin van Persie, Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo da Silva, Abou Diaby…the list goes on.
Speaking of Diaby, Arsene Wenger has admitted that he took a gamble on the lanky Frenchman’s fitness, and he’s hopeful that it doesn’t come back to haunt the team. However, Wenger was mindful about the personnel playing in Diaby’s position with the likes of Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and of course, Jack Wilshere causing him not to delve into the transfer market for a new midfielder, despite the sale of Alex Song to Barcelona.
Arsenal’s Under-21s visited the Hawthorns to take on West Brom’s Under-21s and there were some pretty familiar names in the Arsenal setup. Damian Martinez was between the sticks for the young Guns with other notable figureheads like Ignasi Miquel, Nico Yennaris and Frimpong all starting as well. The spotlight was on Jack Wilshere that came out for the first time with the No. 10 on his back.
With no way in Hell for folks like me to watch the game live, I had to make do with tweets from @ArsenalLive and I was reading about impressive stuff from Wilshere. After the best part of one hour, Wilshere was withdrawn from the pitch and there were no setbacks whatsoever.
Arsenal Under-21s lost the game through a solitary goal from West Brom’s Yassine El Ghanassy but the idea of Wilshere getting one hour under his belt brought butterflies to my tummy. The prospect of watching Wilshere, Arteta and Santi Cazorla man the midfield is just beyond the horizon and I know that many Gooners are looking forward to that.
Shortly after the game, Frimpong took out time to talk to a few media Vultures about his “best friend” Wilshere,
“I’m happy for him to be back playing with the team again and to see a smile on his face. “After 14 months out, he did very well and he can be pleased with his performance.
“When you’ve been out for so long, it’s only natural you’re going to be tired [afterwards]. He needs more games to get fit. I think the England and Arsenal fans should be excited to see him back again.
“He’s probably my best friend at the Club. It’s only right because I’ve known him for 11 years. I’m just happy to be playing alongside him and I thought the team did well even though we lost the game – we can take some positives.”
Frimpong played for 70 minutes as well and with Diaby out injured till God knows when, Wenger could draft the Denchster back to the first team to allow Arteta go back to doing what he does best.
Elsewhere, ex-Gunner, Manuel Almunia, has been on the news, as he had a word or two to say about Arsenal’s custodians between the sticks. The 35-year-old hag made 175 appearances for the Gunners, keeping 53 clean sheets in the space of eight years.
Almunia did well in the 2007/08 campaign to reclaim the No. 1 spot from Mad Jens Lehmann and he went on to produce consistent displays for Arsene Wenger’s side. With his deputy, Lukasz Fabianski, not ready to plunge for first team action via his countless howlers, Almunia allowed complacency to creep into this game and the last straw was in the 3-2 home defeat to West Brom, where he was at fault for two goals at least.
After hacking Peter Odemwingie in the box, Almunia atoned for that gaff with a penalty save. However, his second half display was a nail in his own coffin as he let a simple Gonzalo Jara shot skip past him and he was caught in No Man’s Land allowing Jerome Thomas to put West Brom three goals to the good. A late surge from Samir Nasri wasn’t enough to salvage a point for Arsenal.
From there onwards, Fabianski was given another shot to stake a claim for the No. 1 jersey and he took his chances. A shoulder injury to Fabianski paved the way for Szczesny thereby sending Almunia further down the pecking order. When Szczesny ruptured a ligament in his finger after attempting to catch a shot from Dani Alves in March 2011, Almunia was given another chance to safeguard Arsenal’s goal and he didn’t do half bad in the 3-1 loss to Barcelona.
Arsenal visited the Hawthorns again, and Almunia achieved legendary status with this awkward moment,
Many fans couldn’t forgive Almunia after this, so Szczesny had to be rushed back to action because the idea of having Almunia between the sticks was more scary than going into a location where an anaconda lives. If my memory serves me right, Arsenal had to resort to coaxing Mad Jens Lehmann out of retirement to play the game against Blackpool.
Almunia’s final season at Arsenal was very gloomy from his side, as Wenger kept him in the dark, loaned him out to West Brom, recalled him from the loan during another goalie injury crisis before letting him leave on a free transfer.
Now keeping for npower Championship side Watford, Almunia has given his take on Arsenal’s present crop of goalies, as well as chipping a few words about his time with Lehmann. Almunia believes that all three goalies are “similar” but he had specific words for them as well.
“Szczesny is like me; tall, authoritative and good with his feet. But he needs to be more mature. Not on the pitch, where he’s good, but he needs to be more quiet and settled off the pitch. He should think twice before doing certain things. When you’re young you do things without thinking.”
Did Almunia say that Szczesny is like him? *holds laughter*. In my honest opinion, the Pole is not good with his feet as Almunia had stated. In as much as I’m a great fan of Szczesny, his distribution stinks and he really needs to work on it.
Although, I absolutely agree with Almunia on Szczesny sorting out his life off the pitch. He’s always in the news for this or that and that’s not what he’s meant to be doing at this stage in his career. My opinion though.
On Szczesny’s deputies, Fabianski and Mannone,
“Lukasz and Vito are more explosive and make more spectacular saves.”
True. Fabianski and Mannone are the keepers that live for the cameras.
Both goalies prefer to stay on their lines and wait to make a superb stop rather than attacking the ball to dominate their box. Heaven knows that with Szczesny in goal, Arsenal wouldn’t have conceded such cheap goals against Chelsea because balls launched into his box are his bread and butter – with the exception of his recent howler against Southampton though.
But I’m sure you get my drift.
Finally, on Lehmann,
As everyone knows we had a difficult relationship for years, but Jens is a lovely person off the pitch.
“He didn’t hate me, but Jens is the kind of person who, when someone tries to take his place, he fights and fights and fights to recover it. He’s very competitive and I just got in the way.
“In his last season at Arsenal there was a team dinner for us all to say goodbye. Jens and me didn’t speak — and I mean never — but he came to me with his wife and showed me a totally different face. I thought, ‘oh my God, who is this? This is not Jens!’ We talked about life, football, Spain, Germany, everything.”
To wrap it all up, Almunia stated that he would have left Arsenal a long time ago but he chose to sit out his contract to the end because it was very lucrative.
We cry about having a massive wage bill yet we pay deadwood like Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Seb Squillaci, Marouane Chamakh, Johan Djourou and others in this class fat salaries yet we get no output from them.
More on the Olympiakos game tomorrow.
That’s a wrap folks.
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