Despite Manuel Almunia’s excellent game against Blackburn on Saturday, I still want Mark Schwarzer to sign from Fulham before the transfer window closes tomorrow.
As an Australian who keenly follows the Premier League, I have seen more of Schwarzer than most people. This is not a way of belittling anybody’s opinion, it is just a simple fact.
Schwarzer may be 37 but he has the right combination of attributes that we need in a goalkeeper right now: good communication skills, consistent positioning, excellent judgment in the air and the psychological temperament to bounce back from the minimal mistakes he makes.
He is a consistent shot-stopper and also has a good record for saving penalties but that is not why Arsene Wenger wants to buy him. He wants him because he has a calm, controlled demeanor that is superior to any other goalkeeper on our books.
I have seen Schwarzer play in virtually every situation you could see a goalkeeper play: crucial and run-of-the-mill Premier League games, FA Cup ties, UEFA Cup games, a UEFA Cup Final, grueling Asian World Cup qualifiers played in extreme heat, two World Cups and perhaps the most tense and important game of them all, Australia’s 2005 World Cup qualifying play-off against Uruguay.
He has made mistakes, more in the early part of his career than the latter, but perhaps the best thing about Schwarzer is that he likes to save his best appearances for the big games.
I’ve already mentioned the 2005 qualifier, where he played a blinder and saved two penalties in the shootout, but there is also his amazing effort in last season’s UEFA Cup semi-final in Hamburg and numerous Premier League Man of the Match performances against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
In my opinion, Schwarzer is the right goalkeeper to complete this Arsenal squad. He will improve our communication skill on the pitch, help us concede fewer goals and will improve the leadership in the squad. He will also give players like Lukasz Fabianski and Wojceich Sczcesny someone to look up to and learn from to improve their own games.
The good news is that Fulham manager Mark Hughes has confirmed that Schwarzer wants to join Arsenal. The better news is that Hughes is making arrangements for that move to become a reality, organising to bring in Shay Given on loan to allow Schwarzer to cap off a fine career by playing for a Champions League club.
Being a Fulham player, there will be no ‘settling in’ time for Schwarzer at Arsenal. He lives in London and has done for several years. If signed he will be ready to play immediately and will be well and truly up for the task.
I think Schwarzer will sign for Arsenal before the window shuts and I will be delighted if he does.
What it means for Almunia, who has been a wonderful and loyal servant to the club and a classy professional during this time, I don’t know. But it will improve Arsenal and at the end of the day that is what must come first.
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