Arsene Wenger provided the media with his usual non-committal type of comments. When asked whether Manuel Almunia will return for the Fulham game tomorrow, he said that the Spaniard will not return and responded that “normally Mannone would deputise but we are 48 hours away from the game”. But then again we know that Vito Mannone is not injured. Is something amiss here?
That’s a fairly unusual comment even coming from Wenger. He normally would back his players up the hill. Although this did happen once before with Jens Lehman. By giving out injury excuses, Wenger eased the German out of the picture and gave Almunia his big break. Could the same thing be happening with again?
Granted Almunia have been poor since the season started. Perhaps it’s the way things worked. You tend to do better when there is a challenge and vice versa. Has Almunia slacked-off given the defensive shielding he has in front of him has improved? Normally in the past he would expect more to do in a match when the partnership of Gallas/Toure or any other combination is front of him. Now that Vermaelen seemed to have plug this hole, his concentration in a game looks to be lacking. Now, the goalkeepers always have the least to do in a match but always strive to keep themselves on their toes for any unexpected shot at goal. Maybe that is not happening with Almunia.
Mannone has stepped in for the last 2 games (Champions League and Premiership) but have not looked at all convincing. Within 5 minutes of his competitive start, his defense has already let him down and conceded 2 goals in the process. Psychologically that has a bad effect in any keeper let alone one who is just 20 years old and making his first start. Szczescny on the other hand has performed admirably in the Carling Cup match has almost single-handedly kept Arsenal in the game during the first half. The Polish may have inherited his father’s goalkeeping genes and showed good reflexes to keep West Brom at bay. He has also looked solid in pre-season games.
Is it one of Wenger’s ploy to get Roy Hodgson to believe that he will be fielding a keeper who up to last season was still playing for the Under-18’s? A ploy which no doubt is trying to get the opposition to put out a more offensive approach to this weekend’s game. But the wily Englishman may not fall for such an old trick. Even without an experienced keeper, Arsenal still looks head and shoulders above Fulham. Whoever comes out to play will have all the chance to impress Wenger while Almunia continues to recover from his mysterious chest infection.
Have a thought for poor ol’ Fabianski. More match preview tomorrow.
Victoria Concordia Crescit