Manuel Almunia has never been a fan favourite. Early in his Arsenal career he was prone to rash decisions and sloppy errors, and that led many to believe he simply wasn’t up to being anything more than a backup at a big club.
Then, last season, Jens Lehmann opened the campaign with a couple of costly errors, was dropped, and the Spaniard became first choice, re-opening the debate on his goalkeeping credentials. Despite the fact that he largely did very well, having cut out the crazy errors that haunted him in the past, he never won the fans over.
And this season, his form has been even better, yet as soon as he had a bad pair of games, as he just has, he is written off. Some are writing that Fabianski should now become first choice for the rest of the season, based on a performance against Fenerbahce where he had practically nothing to do. Even so, he managed to make one mistake, failing to come for a through ball that he should have claimed.
That isn’t a criticism of the young Polish stopper. He is still learning his trade, and keepers in their early career always make wrong decisions. The trouble is that when you are a keeper, there is nowhere to hide, no-one to cover for your mistakes. You make an error and the opposition score.
Fabianski is at that stage. A keeper with great potential, he is raw, and prone to making exactly the same sort of mistakes that Almunia was making when he joined. So why the calls for his promotion ahead of time?
Almunia has never been a fashionable choice in goal, but he has shown enough over the past year to suggest that he is extremely capable and currently the best we have. With his confidence so crucial, I believe that his illness the other night was a genuine one, and that he’ll be back in goal very soon.
And rightly so. He deserves a lot more respect than he is getting.