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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Is it time to drop Manuel Almunia?

In a week when there was a furious outcry over a phone-call to an actor who famously played a Spanish Manuel; there was a less publicised suggestion that Manuel Almunia should be considered as an England 'keeper for World Cup 2010. In Scotland the same debate rages about Nacho Novo's transferable loyalty - and in both cases the player is simply not good enough to be worth picking.

For Almunia against Tottenham he was discomfited by four long-range efforts from open play - none of which he was able to deal with adequately; better teams than Spurs will have noted this weakness from range and I would be unsurprised to see Stoke adopt a shoot on sight policy, with players looking to pounce on rebounds.

The first Tottenham goal from David Bentley was, for me, a clear goalkeeping error. Almunia dived too early and was horizontal when he helped the ball into the net - look closely and without the dive the ball would probably have landed in front of the goal-line. There is an excuse for being beaten from range where the ball swerves and dips just under the bar, but this was a 45-yard lob that would have bounced before entering the goal - keepers should keep those out 99 times out of a 100.

The second goal thumped Almunia in the face, stunning him sufficiently that he was unable to offer much of a challenge to the rebound. But his reaction suggested that he had suffered a broken nose or something - or perhaps he was getting his excuses in early.

The third goal was nicely clipped from 20 yards by Jermaine Jenas - but it was not in the corner and yet Almunia got nowhere near it.

The final goal brought mayhem, but again Modric was fully 25 yards out when a fully extended Almunia was unable to turn the speculative effort around the post - or recover to try to block the rebound.

Maybe it was a dodgy night for Almunia, but it is interesting that the focus has been on the dubious quality of the Spurs stopper when Arsenal's keeper was arguably poorer. Almunia took a long time to establish himself as a number one but the league stats of the 'big four' do not back him; this season Arsenal has conceded 10 goals, Liverpool 6, Chelsea 4 and Man United 5. Last season United conceded 22, Liverpool 28, Chelsea 26 and Arsenal 31.

Fine lines will divide the top few in a division this competitive and I am unconvinced that Almunia is good enough for Arsenal - certainly after a performance like that - maybe giving Almunia a rest and giving Lukasz Fabianski a shot is worth considering.

COMMENTS

Ali

Great post, i have always believed that Almunia was never good for Arsenal,maybe good for England who cannot purchase a quality goal keeper but Arsenal can and keepers are cheap so Wenger has no excuse of not buying a better goalie.

true true...his confidence was hugely dented by tha early bentley goal...its like he got a shock!!!thats not right 4 a quality goalkeeper...thereafter we saw him punch balls that he could easily catch!!!tym 2 forcus on stroke n may b give lucas a chance to shine!!!i should say that even lehmann would have deaalt better with the tots goals!!!!SHAME ON ALMUNIA!! (NATHAN)-KENYA

Ben Jeffreys

No disrespect but I do think a lot of football fans are very fickel. When Almunia was playing top quality and Jens Lehmann was becoming a backmarker, everyone was sold on Manuel. Especially when he saved Robbie Keans' penalty last year. Yet he has has a spell of a bad game and everyone is ready to throw him under the bus.

I think when a player has a bad game it is up to the fans to rally around their players and instill the confidence they need to return to their peak. Obviously that game messed Almunia up. I just hope he regroup's and allows himself to get over it and get back to peak form. Because when he is on, he is pretty fantastic.

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