1. Manuel Almunia
If we were surprised to see Manuel Almunia start the season in goal for Arsenal, we’ll be staggered if he’s near the club in the coming August. He had an average start to the season before the debacle of West Brom at home, which summed him up as a goalkeeper. Although he saved a penalty, he’d injured himself giving it away before an awful attempt to save Jara’s shot meant we were always chasing the game. Were it not for injuries, I think that would have been Almunia’s last game for the Arsenal.
He returned in the FA Cup against Huddersfield, and did make an important save, but in the next round he let a shot go straight through him in the draw at Leyton Orient. Almunia’s inconsistency continued with a good performance away at Barcelona, however West Brom again were the beneficiaries of his mistakes. Any normal goalkeeper would never come haring out in the lackadaisical manner Almunia did in that game. Even without playing much this season, the Spaniard cost us key points. The re-signing of Jens Lehmann showed that Arsene Wenger has also lost faith in the error prone keeper.
Verdict: Should have gone last summer, has to go this summer: a generous 3/10.
13. Jens Lehmann
It’s hard to judge a man that only played one game this season, but given we won that match he can’t have played badly. After being brought in as cover for Almunia, Lehmann’s only game was against Blackpool, one of only three wins after the Carling Cup final. Most of the players spoke highly of him after that game as being an extra voice on the pitch, and certainly the defenders were better in that game due to the scary presence of the German behind them.
During the embarrassing ‘lap of appreciation’ at the end of the season, Jens was one of the few players who got a great reception from the fans. He’s a legend at the club who only came back to help out. Whether Lehmann appears again in an Arsenal shirt remains to be seen. If he does, it will only be as third or fourth choice.
Verdict: Will be surprised to see him play again, but did a good job in his one game: 6/10.
21. Lukasz Fabianski
Since the emergence of Szczesny, it’s easy to forget how much Lukasz Fabianski did improve during the season. He’d always looked shaky and low on confidence when playing for Arsenal, however he was like a different man after his penalty save at Partizan Belgrade. He finally got a run in the team, and but for a misjudgement against Newcastle, was gaining the club more points than the number lost due to his errors.
Fabianski’s highlight of the season was probably Wolves away. It wasn’t a great performance from the team, but we came away with a 2-0 win thanks to a double from Chamakh and a string of excellent saves from Fabianski. He then backed that performance up with more good saves against Everton. He was unfortunate to suffer an injury in January, ironically caused by Wojciech Szczesny, that ended his season. However the Pole definitely showed enough during the campaign to merit retaining a place in the squad.
Verdict: Deserves to stay at the club, proved himself to be a solid second choice: 7/10.
53. Wojciech Szczesny
After a successful loan spell at Brentford, it was hard to blame Wojciech Szczesny for being a bit frustrated at being behind Fabianski, and particularly Almunia, in the goalkeeping pecking order at the start of the season. I’d told quite a few people that I thought he was the answer to our keeper problems, so when he started at Newcastle in the Carling Cup, I was hoping he’d live up to the hype I’d given him. Szczesny didn’t disappoint with a string of excellent saves, and a punch at the end of the game that will live long in the memory.
His Premier League debut at Old Trafford was equally as impressive. When Fabianski was ruled out for the season, Arsene Wenger and most of the fans had no worries in relying on young Szczesny to perform in the big games. It was no coincidence that Szczesny was in goal during the team’s best run of the season before the Carling Cup final.
The only blot in his season undoubtedly came at Wembley against Birmingham, with the situation and timing of the incident making it worse. There was obvious miscommunication, however I think the majority of the blame for the error lies with Laurent Koscielny.
Despite suffering a serious finger injury against Barcelona, Szczesny healed quickly and managed to shine during the team’s horrible end of season run. His penalty save at Bolton was excellent and although he conceded a penalty at White Hart Lane, were it not for the Pole, Tottenham would have comfortably won that game. At 21, he has the potential to be the number 1 for many years at Arsenal and should have silenced those saying a new goalkeeper is needed.
Verdict: I’d like to see him start next season as number 1, will only get better: 8/10.
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