Arsenal Season Review – Part 1 – The Goalkeepers

Almunia has enjoyed a fine 08/09 seasonToday is the first in a series of posts reviewing Arsenal’s 2008/09 season. This review will look at every facet of the Arsenal squad from the goalkeepers, defence, midfield and attack right up to the performance of the man in charge, Arsene Wenger. First up today though, the Arsenal goalkeepers get a grilling as I look back at the performances of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski as well as pondering the need to change anything.

Manuel Almunia
With a series of consistently strong performances the Spanish goalkeeper became not only the clear first-choice goalkeeper at Arsenal, but a rather excellent one at that. He has been calm and assured with his hands this season, made very few mistakes and produced a number of game-saving performances. He became an official leader in the squad too, captaining the side on a number of occasions and establishing a good relationship with his fellow players.

There will always be people that criticise Almunia for his past efforts – the 4-2 loss to United back in 2005, the Champions League final loss to Barcelona – but the simple fact is that he has become one of the top four goalkeepers in England. Over this season he has easily been the measure of the goalkeepers in the other ‘big three’ clubs and has been, in my opinion, the most consistent and reliable of the four. In fact, in terms of consistency he has arguably been Arsenal’s strongest performer this season.

Almunia will start next season as Arsenal’s undisputed No 1, and rightly so too.

Lukasz Fabianski
I think it’s fair to say that Fabianski’s performances this year have been extremely erratic and very disappointing. He appears a goalkeeper who is capable of making spectacular saves but has so often ruined that ability with an almost possessive need to command the penalty area and beyond.

With Almunia the leading goalkeeper at the club, most of Fabianski’s chances this season came in the FA and Carling Cups. He performed reasonably well during the early stages, making some great saves and keeping a handful of clean sheets. However, when Almunia injured himself against Villarreal and Fabianski was promoted to the first team, he struggled to handle the pressure.

Fabianski’s style of dashing out of the box to play as a virtual sweeper worked well against Villarreal, but failed miserably against Wigan in the Premier League and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final in particular. It is sad that his season will be remembered for being rounded well outside the area by Didier Drogba but his willingness to shoulder the blame shows he has quite a mature head on his shoulders.

My opinion is that Fabianski is not yet ready to be given the No 1 spot by the manager. While it is fair to say that his performances would improve if given a consistent run in the side, the truth is that his decision-making is far from perfect and he is far too erratic when dealing with the high ball. He remains a fantastic shot-stopper and as a young goalkeeper has time well and truly on his side, but I do worry about the prospect of him being relied upon in the event of Almunia sustaining any sort of long-term injury.

Changes required?
In short, no. Almunia has become a top-quality goalkeeper and as long as he stays fit then this area of the team is looking good. Fabianski is a raw talent and has much room to improve but at 24 has plenty of time on his side and is a decent understudy.

Got an opinion? Have your say on Arsenal’s goalkeepers by leaving a comment.



  1. I have to disagree with you on the assessment for Almunia. While being an excellent shot stopper, he has a few flaws which make him unsuitable for Arsenal.

    1) Poor ball distribution. He consistently punts the ball upfield, thereby losing possession more often than not, rather than feeding the ball to his defense and allowing us to build attacks and maintain possession.

    2) His reluctance to challenge for the aerial ball in the box puts additional pressure on on a defense lacking in height.

    3) His tendency to stay back, also creates problems because we play a high defensive line and this creates a large gap between GK and defense, which has been exploited by the opposition.

    4) Weak positioning at times, especially at his near post and has been beaten there on a number of occasions.

    5) Does not authoritatively command his back line which results in mis-communication and defensive errors.

    Not saying Fabianski is better at this time, just saying Almunia is not good enough to be our number 1. I also think you would have a hard time finding anyone else to agree with you that he is better than Van de Saar, Czech and Reina.

  2. trully almunia has been in top form for the 2008-2009 season,nobody can refute that but for fabianski his dashing off his line has left me wondering if they share the same goalkeeper coach with almunia.He has alot to work on if his ever to wear the no.1 jersey

  3. I had high hopes for Fabianski, however this season I feel truely let down. He seems to have bottled it this time round. Almunia will never be a No.1 keeper for me, he was a poor replacement for our german nut case. We need to sign a top class keeper, not some 2nd string keeper, for which we have two of them.

  4. Almunia top performance? Have you forgotten his poor show against Spurs.

    Any GK who’s beaten with a 41 yards shot is not good. His positioning is poor and his performances against Spurs, Hull, Manchester United were that bad. Last season he was terrible against Chelsea and Pool.

    There is a reason the Spanish national team rate Reina and Lopez above him; not good enough.

    As Jens said, Almunia can’t win us anything. AW is wasting his time keeping him, same as players like Diaby, Song and Denilson who are too average to play for the Arsenal.

  5. I agree 100% with your assessment. Almunia has been one of the players of the season. I get tired of people throwing up the old Barcelona nugget.

    Well worth his place as No. 1.

    I’m in agreement with regards to Fabianski too.

  6. Almunia is great between the sticks but he has 2 flaws i dont like.
    1) His distribution is very poor, this restricts us from hitting the oppo on a quick counter.
    2) He is not a leader, he cant command the 4 in front of him.

    Almunia is a great shot stoper but he should be our No.2.

    Fabianski is not ready. I love his bravery but most of his charges are miscalculated. Thats something he needs to work on. He should be our No.3.

    Changes? Id go out for a new No.1. Akinfeev maybe.

  7. Agree completely with HOWARD but would add eboue and lazybayor to his exit list.

  8. Almunia is good, it is however in most instances thatArsenals Defence leaks soo bad that even the best GK will not be able to do much overtime. between Almunia & Fabianski, well they are far apart. Fabianski has alot to learn. But overall, AW has to think seriously if nxt season Arsenal stands a chance of winning anything. I still tremble wen i think about this Guy called AW, WITHOUT THAT WE WILL EVER BE CHALLENGING FOR NUMBER FOUR ALL THROUH WITH TEAMS LIKE ASTON V, AND THE REST.

  9. I think the key is when you say about Almunia ‘as long as he stays fit’. In fact the manager needs to be prepared for a worst case scenario and assume that Almunia may sustain a long term injury at some point. Then what? We have a dodgy keeper in to replace him. Nope we need another at least as good as Almunia.

    I think Almunia’s pretty good. He’s had a good season and performed heroics in some games, saving the teams asses completely. I’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive. But then I’d like to see that from the whole of the squad. Perhaps I’m just a bolshy bastard myself?

  10. Are you serious ?. Fabianski with his height is not built for goalkeeping.

    He has to be sent elsewhere where players dont grow to being 6 footers.

    Almunia is definitely not the best we can hope for, but if we have a limited kitty i would use that for full backs instead of goal keeper. Keep him.

  11. Generally, I think Almunia has had a good season. Yes, he was poor against Spurs and I really think he should have done better with that Ronaldo belter at the Emirates the other week, but he kept us in the tie single-handed at Old Trafford. He has improved immeasurably from the player who came on in the Stade de France when the German nutter got his marching orders in 2006. I don’t think he’s as commanding a keeper as Lehman, and he’s certainly not in the Seaman class, but he doesn’t miss 5 games a season through suspension like Jens used to. He’s generally a steady pair of hands and I think he’s good enough to keep his place. Reina’s no superstar and both Cech and Van de Sar had decidedly dodgy periods this season.

    Fabianski is another matter altogether. I know he’s still young for a keeper, but I think the man’s a clown. He was truly dire against Chelsea in both the FA Cup semi and the league game at Emirates. As others have said, his decision making is woeful. We need another keeper to understudy Almunia, preferably an older, experienced keeper that we can pick up cheap, and who will be happy as a no:2.

  12. Completely agree with your assesment of Almunia – this season and even the season before – he’s been one of our best and most consistent performers. His decision making in the area and coming out of it has improved considerably.

    Good distribution on quick throws as well. Cheers

  13. Have to agree with Caribkid who makes some excellent points. Whilst Almunia has been fairly consistent, he lacks the overall presence and quality that a club like Arsenal needs. The best solution for me would be to sign a new top class keeper, keep Almunia as our cup keeper and send out Fabianski on loan or sell him.

  14. @Howard – The way you’re talking about Almunia is very biased and considering you’ve quoted the Spurs, Hull and United Game. Against Spurs he made two of his three errors which he made in the season the other being his penalty give-away against Newcastle (which he saved). What was his problem against Hull? And which Manchester United game are you talking about? Just consider it mate. Over the coarse of the season he was excellent. If I told you Petr Cech would be our keeper next year you’d probably be salivating but he’s made far more errors than Almunia this year and cost his team far more.

  15. U pple make me wanna laugh. What has presence got 2 do wit goalkeepin? I dnt giv a damn if Almunia doesnt hav the ‘commanding presence’ of Lehman n the rest as long as he does his job. Almunia has been spectacular if not exemplary 4 all keepers this season so jst shut your cans! Fabianski is good n far much better than Almunia- check the liverpool match. He jst needs a little fine tuning n confidence n he’s good 2 go.

  16. Here we go again, face up to it lads Almunia is an average keeper and always will be.We are destined not to win anything next season either because we are still in denial, from the manager right down to the supporters.I hope you guys have conditioned your minds for more failure next season, because you not even prepared to admit we need a massive ovehaul to just compete.

  17. Almunnia the champion among the top 4?no!no!.As much as i admit he has been on his top form this season,there are some areas needing improvement;he needs to be composed with aerial balls.Otherwise,with ground balls,he is 100% ok to me.goshgunnerfan

  18. Again people go on about that barca game and didn’t our no.1 keeper (and german no.1) get sent off after 10 mins and give us 10 men for 80 mins and it wasn’t untill tired legs and a freak scorer called larsson come on and run us ravaged (I always wated him when he was banging them in with celtic).
    Almunia has been great this season and people say he shouldn’t be an england keeper but who is better in england calamity james, spurs reject robinson or green might have a chance but he wouldn’t be above almunia if he was at arsenal.
    but again if schartzer comes avaliable or even given would anyone want them above almunia as I think I would but I’m happy if he’s inbetween the sticks next season.

  19. The best thing about Almunia, is when he comes out to collect a cross, he almost always gets it. The amount of times you see Cech or VDS flailing arms get nowhere near the ball. He is a world class keeper and besides the Spurs game and perhaps the Ronaldo free kick (it was pretty awesome), he has made no mistakes.

  20. Let’s face it Almunia is our number one and Fabianski our number two and given the limitation on transfer funds that’s how it will remain. Both would benefit from having a stronger, more commanding centre back in front of them and that is were our real failings have been most evident this season. Toure, Gallas, Sylvestre and Djourou are just not good enough.

  21. Just want to say a few things about the comments made so far on this post:

    (1) This is going to be 5 or 6 Part Season Review, so I’d really love it if people could comment specifically on the topic of the article. In this case it’s Almunia/Fabianski so I don’t really see the need to criticise Wenger or start talking about what players we need in other positions.

    (2) To those not rating Almunia, all I want to say is that, in short, he has been exceptionally strong this year. He’s made a couple of mistakes – as all goalkeepers so – but the general feeling I get watching him is one of safety and that’s what is important in a goalkeeper. He might not be a ‘commanding presence’ but he’s a fine shot stopper and cross catcher and rarely, rarely makes errors. If there is anything to criticise it’s an inability to pull of truly amazing saves but there are few goalkeepers around right now who are capable of those. Maybe only Cech, Buffon and Casillas and all of them have their moments of inconsistency, particularly Cech.

    (3) I really don’t think there is a goalkeeper out there that we could get for a reasonable sum of money. City are paying ridiculously high amounts for Buffon and I think we’ve got an exceptionally strong keeper.

  22. Almunia is above average. He’s a solid stopper who has really grown this season. Fabianski I’m a bit worried about. I’m not sure where his confidence is at after they way his season ended. If we could get a solid number two for a good price I’d be happy with that but I think it would be better if we spent elsewhere. Blondie is good enough for me.

  23. When I think of Almunia, I think of the 5-2 win over Fenerbahce which he was extremely amazing, racing out of the box on several occasions to clear the ball and making a number of decent saves. and the 1-0 loss to United, although we lost, we could have lost 6-0 or 7-0 if it werent for Almunia.
    Fabianski I think of the Carling Cup and especially the Wigan game, the save to deny Zaki, he was off his line, he had to dive backwards, got a touch which made the shot hit the bar. and the double save against Villarreal (top opposition) but more often than not he has been in consistant (1st half v Liverpool he was great, second half he was poor), Chelsea he was poor in both games). And everytime I start to like Almunia, he goes and lets stupid goals in and then I dont rate him as highly. But I will be happy to see him as No.1 next season. Just to add I think Fabianski deals with corners (grabbing the ball in the air) better than Almunia). Also it says EVERYWHERE that we are going for Xabi Alonso because Liverpool want Gareth Barry meaning Alonso can leave and we will have to pay £18 million. I say PAY IT, he has been amazing this season and we need him in our squad next to Cesc, it might even make them both play in the Spanish squad.

  24. I agree with you, S.F. Almunia has been the most reliable and consistent performer on the entire team this year. His detractors are still judging him on mistakes he made years ago, and are blind to his form this year. Fabianski was showing good promise, but really disappointed repeatedly near the end of the year – jury’s still out on him.

  25. For me Almunia is no better than average – he certainly does not inspire confidence. I’m always nervous watching him . Good shot stopper , yes (except for the Portuguese poofters effort)but no, not a GOOD ‘keeper .
    Not sure about Fabianski , think he needs an extended run if he’s ever to get confident about it.
    Cheap good keepers ? Kameni(if I’ve spelt it right) at Espanol is free. He’s refused to resign there and he’s impressed me on the several occasions I’ve seen him .

  26. I agree with SF and his brother PB. I think Almunia has played very well this season and in the games I have seen has made some excellent saves which as against manure has kept us in games. You must also remember that the back 4 in front of him have been very inconsistent and variable all season. It is difficult to get communication going when the two players directly in front of you are always different. As for Fabianski, he did well in the kiddies cup but has been found wanting in the EPL. He is only 24 and so has a long time to learn but he needs this time in the reserves. I think we need to buy an experienced goalie who can compete for the No. 1 jersey with Almunia and let Fabianski get his experience playing at a lower level. You have to remember if RvP makes a mistake you just don’t score if the goalie makes a mistake it is invariably a goal. FB sorry I mentioned RvP after your last comment.

  27. Can’t Disagree with SF with the point that Almunia may retain the number one spot.It is an big long season and you are prone to make mistakes but he has made very few. But we also need to agree the distribution is very poor and average as we compare him with Van,Jose,Cech. But guys we can give him some more time to improve. I think the same can be applied to Fabianski. Yes he is all over the place right now but we can be patience with him. He was thrown directly into the crunch games might be these was the cause. I know this would be an excuse. But I hope he grooms himself well next season. Hope he an Almunia have good pre season. To be safer if i was AW i would still sign an GK.

  28. Good review.

    I think Almunia has come on leaps and bounds – he has finally won me over this season. I always felt he was lacking a big performance but he gave us that a couple of times this year. His distribution will no doubt be worked on over the pre-season and I feel he will continue to improve with age.

    Whether he is among the top four in the league is debatable – Friedel, who hasn’t been mentioned, is pretty good and there are a few others who save their teams again and again. But he has definately stepped up this season and let’s hope it contunes.

    England’s number 1!!!

  29. I think Alumnia is deserving in praise for the way he has played this season. His shot stoppping has been great, he has on a number of occasions diffused potential risky attacks by the opposition with smart runs out from his area.

    His distribution hasn’t been the greatest, but generally Arsenal haven’t conceded a huge amount with him between the sticks. In fact, he has done great considering the injuries to the first choice back 4 for a large part of the season.

  30. i think we need another keeper that is as good as alumin if not better.young fab takes no 3 spot

  31. Almunia has proved this year that he is a good goalkeeper, his extended run as our no.1 has given him consistency. He has made some errors, every goalie does, but against Man U in the first leg was his best game for us. He will be our number 1 next season. However we need to get rid of Fab. He is not a Premiership goalkeeper. A second keeper maybe older who doesn’t mind being on the bench for much of the season but when called into action has the experience needed is what we want.

  32. at best almunia should be our no 2 keeper,we should go out and buy a top keeper and if we had gone for shay given before he went to city we would have one already also fabianski just aint good enough to play for arsenal and when asked to step in when almunia was injured didnt deliver.

  33. I’m on your side when it comes to Almunia, SF. I think he has performed absolutely fine this season. I think people must just dislike him because they have old hang-ups on the guy. People saying we should go out and sign someone like Buffon must be living on another planet. Like goalkeepers that good grow on trees!

    When Cech joined Chelsea, nobody had heard of him (except me, he was my greatest ever Championship Manager 4 signing!), but now he has a solid reputation. He has proved this season that any keeper can perform badly, make mistakes and have a crisis of confidence. I maintain that Cech forged his reputation because of the incredible defence he had in front of him, something Almunia hasn’t had the benefit of.

    As for Fabianski, he is a perfectly able substitute goalkeeper who is earning a decent amount of experience for his age, even at the national level. Who could even name a world class keeper who was 22 years old? What is Reina or Cech were injured for long periods of time? Only Manchester United could truly boast an excellent substitute goalkeeper and even he gets torn apart in the press.

    Salivating at the prospect of the defence review, SF. I’ve got my claws sharpened.

  34. agree with millefiori – almunia is worth keeping around as #1. he’s not the best in the world, but with more pressing needs he is more than adequate. i believe he really turned things up this season overall. everyone makes a few mistakes over the course of so many games. stick with the man and keep that money for defense and midfield or striker.

  35. Almunia fills me with nothing but confidence and i’m suprised people still think he’s not good enough. I would rate him as better than reina and van der sar(seriously). A few months ago I wud have said cech too but he seems to have got his mojo back.. Almunia just doesnt get the credit he deserves cos he’s not a ‘big name’ thats all.

  36. Fabianski on the other hand has just shown that he cant handle pressure and is not ready to step in. I know wenger thinks highly of him and I agree he has potential. Unfortunately we cant afford to let him mature if he costs us goals which he will. Its not just the chelsea games but also the carling cup semi against spurs last year.
    Not sayin let him go but maybe an experienced 2nd choice keeper shud come in(where is antti niemi now?)..However money needs to be spent more urgently elsewhere and it wouldnt be the end of the world if he stayed our 2nd choice.

  37. Good to see some strong support for Almunia out there. It’s been great watching him improve as a player and I hope he can make another step forward next season.

  38. @ butterfingers

    absolutely superb that clip…despite the fact i have utmost respect for Ron as a player i worry about him bringing his sexual persuasions to the pitch!!.. Made me laugh out loud!

  39. @ Hey Nonny Mouse – You’re right.

    Guys, no need for those sort of comments on here. I know you didn’t mean them like they sound but it’s definiitely not something that should be posted on the blog.

  40. SF,

    I think Almuni’s biggest weakness is distribution..

    This is a big part of goal keeping.

  41. er when did I say being gay is wrong????? my head waiter at my last resturant was gay and so was 1/3 of all other waiters/barmen I’ve worked with over the last 10 years as a chef so I am one of the least homophobic guys I know. So nonny hamster (another joke) take a chill pill and see the funny side of it as it was a light hearted joke aimed at one of my most detested players in the epl. I think it was panda bear that stated how someone that play acts like he does gets away with it and then manages to belt in a 40 foot free kick is somehow going to get it through karma.

  42. Still a valid point to make is that ALL of the top teams in the premiership have 1st choice national keepers, surely if we are to compete on a level playing field, we need one as well?

    Yes Almunia’s has played well, but also has let us down in key games, and our 2nd choice Polish dwarf has been a even bigger let down in key games. Also Almunia’s distribution sucks ass.

  43. That doesn’t really mean much, Friar Fork. Imagine if we had England’s number one between the sticks, that wouldn’t inspire me with much confidence.

    Also, Van Der Sar isn’t Holland’s number one, Reina isn’t Spain’s number one and only Cech can claim a number one spot. Even he nearly retired after Euro 2008. We didn’t win anything with Germany’s number one in goal, either.

  44. Almunia was one of the best GK in this last season. He saved about 4 penalties and was amazing even when we had a dodgy defense line. Seaman (Can anyone remember Brazil vs England and Arsenal vs Rooney sorry Everton)?

  45. Spectacularly I was browsing the internet today and I perfectly freaked out. I absolutely develop my ex-girlfriend pictures on the internet. I have no thought when she did this but my ex-girlfriend was making out like a light with some other teen.
    Does anyone have any info on this ex-girlfriend site?

  46. Giving fabianski the no.1 is not mean thing is for him to have confident and as for almunia he sahold be more serious as our no.1 keeper, i expect him to be like edworld vandersa.

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