Arsenal v West Ham: It’s time for Manuel Almunia to return

Mannone has done well, but I'd like to see Almunia return

Hello, hello. A very good afternoon to you all.

With the Arsenal Annual General Meeting taking place yesterday and an important league game at Upton Park on Sunday night, there’s plenty of things to talk about both off and on the pitch. As my focus on this blog is usually to do with first-team matters I’ll focus mostly on the on-field matters before touching briefly on things going on behind the scenes.

First up is some team news for the West Ham game. According to the manager Eduardo “should” be back in the squad for Sunday with Tomas Rosicky and Nicklas Bendtner both a 50:50 chance. Samir Nasri, who played an hour against Wolves, is likely to be a game short with the manager hinting he will be playing in the Carling Cup against Liverpool on Tuesday, while Theo Walcott will also be out along with long-termers Johan Djourou and Denilson.

The big talking point going into the game remains the goalkeeping situation. With Vito Mannone the manager’s flavour of the month, Manuel Almunia waiting prepped on the sidelines and Lukasz Fabianski back in contention, Arsene Wenger has three goalkeepers to choose between for Sunday’s game.

My personal hope is that Wenger brings back Almunia against West Ham. While I agree with the manager’s decision to drop the Spaniard after some unfocused early season displays and his replacement Mannone has put in some good performances – most notably in his debut game against Fulham – I believe the time is right for Almunia to return to the team.

I do admit that Mannone’s temperament has been outstanding throughout his tenure in goals despite a couple of minor errors, but with two heated London derbies up next we need to have our most experienced and polished goalkeeper on the pitch. As admirably as he has performed, a fully fit, fully focused Almunia is a better goalkeeper at this stage of their respective careers and I think he should start on Sunday.

With Eduardo and perhaps Bendtner and Rosicky back in contention the manager may have room to rotate and experiment but I suspect – perhaps excluding the goalkeeper – it will be the same team that started at AZ Alkmaar that runs out against West Ham. With the Hammers in second last spot they’ll be desperate for points and at home with a talented squad at their disposal they will not be easy-beats, yet I fancy us to go to Upton Park on Sunday and get all three points. I mentioned the issue of complacency in yesterday’s post but after Tuesday night’s late kick in the ribs the boys should be focused and fired up for what is likely to be a very competitive London derby.

Onto off-field matters now and as I indicated earlier the AGM took place yesterday. What eventuated was apparently far less spectacular than last meeting’s “Arsene Wenger Hate-athon” with the man in question stating that he feels the club is moving in the right direction and expects his team to lift silverware this season. The ever-reliable Arseblog has all the details from the AGM but as I mentioned, it’s little more riveting than a game of county cricket.

Anyway I’d better leave it there. Have a lovely Friday wherever you are in the world and I’ll speak to you over the weekend.

Have your say on Arsenal v West Ham, the goalkeeper situation or the AGM by leaving a comment.



  1. I do not agree – I think Mannone is more agile, catches more than he punches which is more english style rather than the contintial style, kicks better from place or from hand, DITCH Almunia, forget the Pol and stick with the big I. Tie!

  2. To be honest guys I think all of our first choice keepers aren’t good enough. Mannone isn’t experienced enough yet and both Fabianski and Almunia just aren’t good enough! Alumina was complete cr*p in the Champs league semi against manure utd. Arsene needs to buy a top class keeper!

  3. …for me it sounds very logical about the goalkeepers, I can’t judge them, Wenger will know, but I would believe most people expect the change …. πŸ’‘

  4. i think mannone has done fairly well and again i think he brings some luck to the team, we have not lost a match with him

  5. Hi,
    First of all, mistakes were done by Almunia contributed a lot to the defeats by Manchesters

    Next, Vito Mannone,the little Bufon!, has been very flexible and reactive goal keeper as been witnessed so far(for about a month.Besides,his movement with and without ball is excellent.To control the tempo of a game is in expected level.His shoots almost targeted his teammates in the pitch.By the way, Almunia’s problems are associated with the above problems. Hence,for the time being, Almuna does not deserve to be No.1 goal keeper for Arsenal First Team.And I certainly believe that Mannone continues as No.1.
    As a result,here,supports of Arsenal in our Country, around me,are very confident to watch Arsenal’s games and Arsenal to win any game by the help of the new No.1 quality and competence

  6. Lets give Vito a chance as he has tried. He has qualities and weaknesses but it might be just an opportunity to get best out of him and probably the best for the club. Competion will give them a chance to deliver for arsenal and fans.

  7. NO – NO and again NO !! Cannot agree with you about Almunia . Mannone has done ok and does not deserve to be dropped – especially for the likes of Almunia .Almunia does not inspire confidence in the defence(I have mini heart attacks watching the prat) and the panic and uncertainty is all too obvious when he’s playing
    At the end of the day Wenger will decide and we’ll have to live with that but I for one hope it doesn’t happen.

  8. Mannone all the way. From 7amkickoff:


    5 shots – own goal, 2 saves β€” Man City 4-2 Arsenal
    3 shots – own goal, 2 saves β€” Man U 2-1 Arsenal
    3 shots – 2 saves β€” Arsenal 4-1 Pompey
    5 shots – 4 saves β€” Everton 1-6 Arsenal
    16 shots – 10 saves β€” 8 goals (2 o.g.)

    62.5% Save Percentage β€” .5 goals/shot


    5 shots – 5 saves CLEAN SHEET β€” Arsenal 4-0 Wigan
    8 shots – 8 saves CLEAN SHEET β€” Fulham 0-1 Arsenal
    5 shots – 3 saves β€” Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn
    3 shots – 1 save β€” Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham
    21 shots β€” 17 saves, 2 CS β€” 4 goals

    81% Save Percentage β€” .2 goals/shot


  10. My theory is that Mannone has done brilliantly so far, but the longer he plays the more pressure thats going to build on his young shoulders. So i think he has been given a fair chance and proved himself admirably, but its time for Almunia to come back, show he has taken on board that he is crap and has found a new determination to be focused and not be beaten by a 21 yr old. The psychological effect of being dropped can be influencial, just the same as the longer Mannone gets in goal the pressure of not making mistakes grows, and i fear that if her were to have a clanger and we lose easy points it will do far more damage than being usurped by the No1 Almunia….do you get what I am saying πŸ™‚

  11. The person that post this is simply stupid and definitely not one that watches arsenal.

    Changing Almunia for Mannone?? This is crap. Almunia is rubbish. Remember the other time he allowed bastard bentleys shot to loop over him? He was pretty crap and we tie the game at 4-4, and you still wanted him to come back against spurs? Crazy..

    go support liverpool or what, stop sprouting nonsense here.

  12. Are you for real?
    What right does Manuel the clown have? The stats above say it all. He’s crap and I’m amazed he’s still
    here. Him and Flapianski need to get sold, our goalkeeping coaching staff need sacking and a class act should be brought in.
    Julio Cesar, Akinfeev, Jaaskelinen.
    A keeper to earn NOT lose us points!

  13. It seems a lot of people are happy to see Mannone retained, which I respect but do find interesting. My feeling is that Almunia is the more experienced keeper and we need him for the big games – his lack of focus early on should be sharpened by the kick up the backside Wenger and Mannone has given him and he should return strongly.

    @ Damn_Gallas – By criticising me the way you have, it really shows you to be the one sprouting nonsense. One game against Spurs – perhaps his only really poor game last season – and that’s enough to call him rubbish. To call me stupid and someone who doesn’t watch Arsenal games is ridiculous.

  14. @ Frichie – Nice thoughts, I certainly agree. Now is the time for the change to be made – or else Almunia’s confidence is going to go down and the pressure on Mannone will increase. It’s certainly a key moment in the season for this selection.

  15. I don’t think Alumnia will do any better than Vito .I have seen him sleeping infront of goal and opponent teams making use of it.He is not that good or have great reflexes to prevent close range headers or in one to one encounters or long range shots.

    Arsene believes in talent more than experience that’s why he has this team and i believe Vito has great talent and deserves a chance to be in the playing squad.
    He makes errors but silly ones only which he will learn to avoid quickly ,unlike Alumnia where he almost looks aged to learn new things.

    Compared to Fabianski Vito looks great.Because he has great reflexes that other two i believe.

  16. Andy, I respect your views on experience, but that’s all The clown will bring. Not confidence for his back 4, not the ability to catch, not the ability to kick.
    Lehmann (our last decent keeper) said it all when he insinuated Manuel the clown was no competition.
    Then we have Flapianski. The display against Chelski said it all!
    Mannones done well, the fans like him, let’s not change something that’s not broke….

  17. @ Roy – I don’t think he’s a clown: 20% of readers on this blog voted him our player of the season in 08/09. He was strong throughout, had a shaky start to this season, deserved to be dropped and has the ability to perform well again.

    I don’t know where this statement about giving confidence to the back four comes from, when I watch him play he seems to do this and he catches the ball well.

    A fair point about not changing something that’s not broke but Mannone has not been perfect in his run, he’s looked a little shaky in the past two games and I think now is the right time to make the change.

    Nice comments though.

  18. I have a season ticket, and am surrounded by people who believe 1 game against United last season isn’t reason to think he’s amazing. Everyone is entitled to there own
    opinion and I guarantee out of the 80% that DIDNT vote him player of the season a considerable amount more than 20% think he should go…

  19. Andy , you say ,I don’t know where this statement about giving confidence to the back four comes from . Honestly mate , to me it’s as clear as crystal that he doesn’t . You can see the uncertainty and indecision , the nervousness amongst the defence, when he’s playing. He looks the part – no doubt about that – but the hard facts are that he is’nt!He is NOT a top class keeper and at his age he isn’t going to be.Again it comes down to believing in Wenger – he will choose , and I BELIEVE big time in Wenger – so ????

  20. Andy, your reasoning is sound. Almunia must come back in the team. Mannonne has done a good job, but experience will win in the end.

    Roy – having a season ticket at Arsenal doesn’t mean your opinion has any more wait than anyone else.

  21. Almunia was our most consistent player in the whole sqaud last season. His form then was clearly better than either Mannone’s or Fabianski’s is now. However, Almunia has been a different and lesser player this season – who knows why…

    Anyway, Arsene will sort it out. Watch and learn.

  22. Andy the general consensus is that our keepers aren’t good enough, everyone has had a pop at one keeper or another. Vito will be good but i agree he may not be ready for the pressure yet. Sack Fabianski and Almunia and buy Craig Gordon from Sutherland. I fully expect Vito to be the future Arsenal and Italy No1!

  23. On this one andy i have to disagree,i can still rememeber some seasons back when we were playing well without sol campbell,then he became fit and was rushed into the starting 11,only to come and play badly and we conceeded more goals.IMO,baring injuries,we should not change a winning team,vito i feel, inspires confidence in the back four,he might not be world class,but heΒ΄s getting there,it would be a mistake to take him out now,if we really wanna see if almunia is ready,thereΒ΄s a cup game on tuesday,try him out there,but not now and not yet in the league.This is reality folks,deal with it,same thing happened to lehman,in favour of almunia,now the shoeΒ΄s on the other foot,thats football,we got to stick with don vito,this kid will only get better,just leave him there,i mean,its not that heΒ΄s lost a match yet.

  24. Whoever Arsene decides to put in goal, Mannone has surely passed Fabianski in the pecking order. He has played well and the kind of mistakes he has made are the kind that can only be fixed with game experience. His run of starts has been much more inspired than the few games Fabianski played last season. I don’t know who will start, but I trust AW’s decisions and Arsenal will get the full six points from these two derbies.

  25. Hey Andy –

    Good stuff, as always. Well reasoned and thought out.

    One question I have for you regarding the Almunia-Mannone debate:

    Is Almunia’s issue REALLY a matter of concentration?

    Personally, I like Almunia. Seems a nice guy and has always represented Arsenal well on and off the pitch. He does have the experience edge over all our other keepers by leaps and bounds, to be sure. But I am wondering now if Almunia’s problems aren’t technical rather than focus oriented. This isn’t to say that Almunia is “crap” or anything like that. But he’s at a point in his career where ongoing development of skill is on the downward curve. He’s about as good as he’s going to get. Mannone, on the other hand, as well as Fabianski and Czeszny (damn, I’m half Polish and can’t spell that guys name correctly to save my life!!) still have a great deal of learning and improvement in front of them and should surpass Almunia in overall talent at some point (Mannone and Czeszny especially).

    So, the ultimate question at this point is – Do we go with the experience of Almunia and perhaps give up a bit of talent, or do we “risk” the season on the youth and talent of Mannone?

    We’ve got it all in front of us this season for trophies, and getting the ‘keeper situation right will go a long way towards determining just how successful we are come May.

    I don’t have answers to these questions. haha But I do hope and pray that Arsene gets it right between the sticks.

  26. Almunia’s problem is decision making. He seems to be in two minds when the ball comes in the 6 yard box. I have seen this before even when Toure was here. They would argue about it because Almunia would not come out and claim the ball that was obviously his. Mannone is not the finished article by a long shot, but he really is very talented and reads the game better.

    As a goalie you have to command the 6 yard box. No question, Mannone would make his fair share of errors that may cost us a game or two, but ultimately it is Wenger’s decision to choose not mine, as he knows them better. If you ask me, I would choose Mannone up until there is a reason for change based on performance. But and again sport is all about confidence to do the job. No one knows what state of mind Almunia will be when his time comes.

  27. Well look at it this way.

    With Almunia we get some experience, a decent shot stopping ability, penalty save ability and poor concentration.

    With Mannone we get a more talented individual, with good shot stopping ability, good reflexes and a good understanding with his back four.

    Both are lacking in commanding their areas and knowing when to collect an aerial ball.

    Both will make mistakes, Mannone due to youth and Almunia due to poor concentration.

    Then there’s Mannone’s excellent form.

    That’s the jist of it, the rest is all personal choice

  28. @ Gunna shah: Spot on. Perfect analogy. The Champions League run to the final we used a back four of Toure, Eboue, Senderos and Flamini. Then in the final we rushed Campbell and Cashley back into the squad, regardless of the form that the makeshift back-four had been in. And it cost us. It really did. Campbell and Cashley were poor in that match (despite Campbell’s goal). Senderos and Flamini were outstanding in that run and should have been rewarded with the start in the final

  29. Almunia is a world class keeper, and has won some amazing games for the gunners how quick are you to forget last year. I agree he should be back in the #1 spot. He has class, Mannone is in good form. I would even choose Lukasz over Vito.

    As for Eduardo, I think if there is any doubt about how fit he is, he should not be played, just like the risk that got him injured in the first place.

    Whoever gets the start, Arsenal will still dominate possession and hopefully they wont be tested at all.

    Here’s to an Arsenal win!

  30. manuel is wold class no doubt, but in the games his kert this season his been very disappionting.But with what arsene has done to him already i think he now realises he is not indispensible. He has learnt his lessons and i’m sure of it. He should be between the sticks come sunday becos his experience is an added advantage for him. Here is to an Arsenal victory.WIN,WIN,WIN

  31. Sorry, Almunia and World class in the same sentence, that’s funny!
    Ask yourselves this, if you could start with ANY Prem keeper (incl mannone) who would it be?
    Almunia I don’t think so!
    Arsene knows, and if he thought Manuel was up too it he’d have played already.

  32. Sorry, Almunia and World class in the same sentence, that’s funny!
    Ask yourselves this, if you could start with ANY Prem keeper (incl mannone) who would it be?
    Almunia I don’t think so!
    Arsene knows, and if he thought Manuel was up too it he’d have played already.

  33. we need almunia experiences for the next games….even he is not a great keeper….i agree with andy…vito is too raw for important games….trust me vito performances will not last longer…he did great job but it should be enough for him….inexperience will make us crash….we saw that on previous seasons..i dont want it to be happen again….

  34. Last season Almunia was a very good goal keeper although not quite world class. He still is a very good keeper but has not maintained his expected level this season. Every professional sports person goes through a period of loss form and confidence. This is no reason to call him crap or clown. You people are suppose to be Arsenal SUPPORTERS! Mannone is a good up and coming keeper between the sticks. His positioning is not always fantastic but he makes up for it with his reflexes. He also has made one or two costly mistakes but at present his body language fills me with more confidence. He has made a competent start, but i feel there is a good chance that Wenger will bring Almunia back for the Westham game because of the lack of hammers goal threat and because of Arsene’s loyalty to his players. But that’s only my guess. Being a WHU fan I hope what ever keeper starts, has a mear. No offense!
    Wenger’s claim during the AGM that the team will win cups this season is a confident statement. What will you fans think if they finish empty handed again.

  35. you can say that again roy,lol almunia is no where near world class.wenger should stick with mannone as he has kept goal admirally apart from one or two lapses which are to be expected from a debutant but at the moment he should continue between the sticks it will give almunia time to reflect on where his game has gone wrong.

  36. Comments from the blogger about Almunia are very rubbish. His comments prove that he is biased towards a young keeper who has performed far better than his darling Almunia.

    Vito is very young and has performed well in Almunia’s absence. Almunia does not deserve to be back in goal. I assume that now he is third choice behind Vito and Fabianski(when he returns).

    Still we do not possess a world class keeper. Vito might become a very good keeper with confidence in few years time. Almunia is always a big time loser. Fabianski is not our goalkeeping answer.

    Here, hoping Vito gets better. Y’all know how hard it will be to win trophies without a commanding keeper between post.

  37. Vermaelen is a beast.
    Arshavin is the best player in our team. We need him in top gear all season to lift a trophy.
    Persie is back in form. Ha ha Adebayor. Cunt.
    Fabregas is back to his best.
    Song is getting better. Also Eboue.
    Sagna and Clichy are regressing.

    Diaby is our key liability. Wenger picks him to play since he is tall. Thing is he don’t know how to head a ball. What a joke?

    Here, waiting for our first trophy in five years. Lord, how long I have to wait….

  38. when nasri is fit the midfield trio has to be nasri,song and cesc,front three of shava,rvp,rosicky hows that for a front six!

  39. @theicehammer – Spot On! I really wanna wish you good luck this weekend, but so sorry I can’t, haha.

    It’s a bit sad though that I can’t agree with most gooners on here – bar Andy and a few others. It’s really funny how people can easily forget how a certain player has contributed to the club, as recent as last season.

    I mean I don’t blame them if it’s someone like Adebayor, who didn’t even give his normal effort for the team … but come on guys, we are talking about Almunia here, someone who – despite his so-called weaknesses – has tried his very best every single second he’s on the pitch.

    The man deserves some respect!

  40. Sorry people, I want Arsenal to be the best club side in the world, and to that end want the best players in each position.
    Is Manuel the best keeper in the world? No. Europe? No. England? No. North London? Probably not.
    That’s my point. Not that his new hair cuts silly, or I don’t like his accent or he was a cheap buy.
    He ain’t good enough. Why do people think there’s a personnal agenda?

  41. It should be Mannone’s position to lose. So far he has shown that he has been capable of filling the role of Almunia at such a young age, so I don’t see a compelling reason to take him out. Mannone might be unpolished, but he has the presence of a world class keeper and should improve with experience. Give him the chance to prove himself to see what he is capable of. If he fails, then you can bring back Almunia

  42. Almunia is the vice captain. He’ll be back, there’s no doubt about that. The only question is when but I don’t think it will be this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds though. Terrific analysis Xabier and it just shows that Mannone still deserves to be starting keeper.

  43. i belive almunia should be put back between the posts. Mannone has done excellent, but the reason why experiance matters is becasue older goalies can put in more consistent performances and awhile Mannone has put in great performances, he should get more experience.

  44. I think it’s a tough call – because Mannone has done really well – and is very popular right now as a consequence. I think Almunia will come back in though now and as much as I’m a Mannone fan I won’t be sorry about that (unless Almunia completely stuffs up!) because Almunia is not ‘a clown’ or any of that other rubbish people are saying and the timing is probably right for him to come back. Meanwhile Mannone can take a breather away from the ‘heat’ and think about what he needs to do to become first choice. I felt that he punches away unnecersarily at times when he really ought to be catching and hanging on to the ball. For a goal keeper he’s also a bot of a short arse so he needs to grow a few inches! A good solid peformace from Almunia will mean we have two good keepers now. But hopefully Almunia won’t have anything to do during that match anyway but applaud the rest of the lads sticking the ball in the back of the net. Some good results for us yesterday – let’s take advantage.

  45. People forget that Arsenal went like nearly 20 years without a league title in the 60s, 70s and 80s. 5 years is not that long – think about the teams who never win anything and play shit football.

  46. Almunia or Mannone, either is fine for me. Just hope they both have a good solid game and hopefully the team improves on the set piece defending.

    It will be a tricky game but hope the boys nick it.

    Cheers All

  47. I love arsenal, in ability, every 1
    is the same and everyone’s da best.

    Fuck westham, they don’t fuckin diserve 2 goals they scored. in ma mind, the reall score is 4-0 for the gunners

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