Almunia Comes of Age

“Then it is a choice left to the England FA or Manuel’s desire. I am not to be involved in that. Of course he is good enough to play for England, not only good enough, he is the best.” – AW

Arsene Wenger puts people in situations that allow them to do their best. Ever the motivator, he rarely has a negative word to say about his players. His public statements are measured when reporters ask probing questions. I understand of course that what is said to players behind closed doors may be another matter.

But let’s be clear, placing Manuel Almunia amongst the “cream” of the EPL’s top keepers is as much a motivational ploy as it is an indictment on the sad state of English goalkeepers. Banks, Clemence, Shilton, Seaman have virtually no English peers in today’s game. Save Ben Foster, it’s hard to nominate a potentially better keeper in England than Manuel Almunia.

David James is not better than Manuel Almunia. The rest of the of the pack have yet to impress consistently or cannot get into their first team a la Foster.

I have been as vocal as anyone about our keeper’s shortcomings and general inability to be the commanding, no nonsense presence that we need. I have also been as vocal with statements on his improvement. Kudos where due! He’s come a long way.

“What is more convincing about him on the night was that not only did he make big saves but everything he did was spot on. The decision making is, for me the most important for a goalkeeper.” – AW

Shot-stopping is his obvious strong point and perhaps not the area which required the most polishing. Decision making and command of his area, especially on crosses, are two such areas. Nevertheless he, more than anyone else, has kept us in the tie vs. Manchester United.

I’ve always felt that there’d be a great deal of work to do to make me forgive soft goals conceded in CL and League Cup finals. Last week’s heroics have helped. Going into Tuesday’s match will be a motivated Arsenal with an in form keeper.

“Almunia came from Celta Vigo. We took the chance he’d make it here – I’d like to get out some papers on him when he played his first game, which will make you realise how far he has come since he played the first came and between now. He must have done something right at the Club.” – AW

I’m hoping he keeps getting it right – right through to the final and beyond.

Capello will be watching. So will Arry, I guess.

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