Wenger tight-lipped over keeper crisis
Arsenal manager won't be drawn on who will start in the north London derby
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 30 October 2009
Arsene Wenger has admitted that he does not know whether to retain the increasingly erratic Vito Mannone, who has made a costly series of recent errors, or recall Manuel Almunia for tomorrow's north London derby as Lukasz Fabianski was yesterday discovered to have suffered a thigh injury against Liverpool. The Polish goalkeeper had impressed in the Carling Cup tie on Wednesday to make him the likeliest starter against Tottenham Hotspur but will now be out of action for three weeks.
"I don't want to give you an indication as I don't know who to play on Saturday yet," Wenger said.
It was Fabianski's first game of the season after recovering from knee surgery and his assured display had seemingly won Wenger's approval to plug a gap that has troubled Arsenal this season. "He has done very well," said Wenger, while the 24-year-old declared himself "delighted". The extent of the injury was not discovered until training yesterday morning. "It is a big disappointment," said Wenger.
That the Arsenal manager has maintained faith in the 24-year-old, whom he once described as having the potential to be "one of the greatest keepers in the world", illustrates the problems Wenger has had in adequately filling the position. Fabianski endured a disastrous FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea last year, proving culpable for both goals in Arsenal's defeat.
Almunia began the season a clear choice as No 1, but he has not played since conceding four times against Manchester City on 12 September. The Spaniard was initially sidelined with a virus, allowing Mannone, the No 3 back in August, his chance. The young Italian at first seized it with successive clean sheets, including enjoying an outstanding match in the 1-0 win at Fulham. Almunia has been back on the bench for the last three games to see Mannone take three steps back, culminating in palming a free-kick back into the six-yard box to allow Carlton Cole to spark West Ham's recovery on Sunday.
"Almunia is back to his normal level," said Wenger when asked about an apparent loss of faith in the 32-year-old, who only last season was being talked up as a possible England goalkeeper as he closed in on the qualification period. "I have no worries [about Almunia]."
Wojciech Szczesny is the fourth keeper to have played for Arsenal this season, appearing twice in the Carling Cup, but although highly thought of, the 19-year-old is regarded as a long-term prospect. Arsenal are far from alone in leaking goals more readily than in recent campaigns, but they have conceded 13 in nine Premier League games, more than Stoke and Birmingham.
Further forward, Wenger has fewer worries. Fran Merida was the pick of another young Arsenal side against Liverpool and the 19-year-old, who scored his first goal for the Gunners, has assured the club he is content at the Emirates. A move back to his homeland had been mooted – he came close to joining Levante on loan in the summer – given the lack of first-team opportunity for the Catalan who followed Cesc Fabregas's path from the Barcelona youth set-up.
"At the moment I am talking to the club so I don't know what is going to happen," said Merida, who is in the last year of his contract. "Hopefully, everything is going to be all right but we are going to sit down and talk about it. I am really happy here and things are going OK. I am really happy in London too so we will see what happens."
Latest in Sport
A tight game could be in prospect here. Northampton have been keeping things very tight of late and ...
by Gareth Purnell
18 May 2013 02:01 AM
I can’t ever watch games of football or rugby without wistfully wondering what it must be like to be...
by Martin Ayres
16 May 2013 05:10 PM
Since PSG’s exit to Barcelona in the Uefa Champions League quarter-final in April, PSG have been sur...
by Matthew Riding
15 May 2013 02:37 PM
Tears and cheers as David Beckham ends glittering career after helping PSG to final win
Video: Emotional David Beckham leaves the pitch for 'the last time'
Manuel Pellegrini has pedigree to be success story at Manchester City
Another nail-biting finish for unlucky Tottenham as Arsenal look to secure Champions League place on last day
Boxing: Carl Froch slams fellow Brits for sparring with Mikkel Kessler
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 4 David Cameron goes to war with newspapers over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.