ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Arsenal
soccernet blog
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/02/2012

Now that I’ve completed my own exams this summer, it’s time for me to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. I’ll go through the squad over the next couple of weeks, and will start at the last line of defence; the goalkeepers.

1. Manuel Almunia

There really isn’t much to say about the Spaniard given he didn’t play a single minute for the Arsenal first team in 2011/12. He’s now been released and is without a club. It’s felt like he hasn’t been an Arsenal player this season, and he did spend a short loan spell at West Ham but returned quickly after they decided that Robert Green was better. The way Almunia was side-lined could seem a little harsh as he’s always come across as one of the nice guys in football, however ultimately he was too error prone. The two matches against West Brom in 2010/11 effectively ended his Arsenal career, but because of a lack of suitors, and injuries to Fabianski and Mannone, he hung around at the club last season and was on the bench a few times, however never made it onto the pitch. I hope his career doesn’t meander into nothingness; however I fear it might, which would be a shame.

Season Rating: 0/10

13. Wojciech Szczesny

This assessment of the goalkeepers is really only about one man. An ever present in the league, Wojciech Szczesny is now established as the first choice goalkeeper at Arsenal. Like the team, the Pole has had an up and down season, but ultimately an impressive one for someone so young, in such a vital position.

There were reports later in the season that Szczesny was playing with an injury, yet he was still deemed better than Lukasz Fabianski. It also showed Szczesny’s commitment to the club considering he could have risked worsening the injury and missing out on a first major international tournament, and a tournament that is being played in his home country.

Whilst he is loved by a lot of fans, it’s possible to be critical of Szczesny. We undoubtedly conceded too many goals last season, and given he played in every game, they all went past the Pole. All 49 of them weren’t unstoppable shots. The Norwich match was a low point as he let a weak Hoolahan shot in. His enthusiasm to come out of goal can still overpower his better judgement and lead to danger. He’s also been beaten at his near post a few too many times; Hatem Ben Arfa’s goal for Newcastle at the Emirates would be a prime example.

However, Szczesny has become a goalkeeper that wins a team more points compared to points that his mistakes cost the club. He has made some amazing saves this season, with the one at home to Sunderland from Lee Cattermole being a personal favourite, and there was a stunner at Wolves later in the season. He made some big penalty saves in 2011/12 as he’s able to make himself an imposing figure to beat and is good at getting into the head of the taker. The save from Di Natale against Udinese was massive for our season in terms of making the Champions League group stage and then being able to sign players. Then there was the double save against Liverpool. Robin van Persie’s brace grabbed the headlines, but his and Szczesny’s performance won us that match.

Ultimately, whatever Szczesny does on the pitch, Arsenal fans will always allow his performances more leeway because he clearly understands and loves the club. His celebrations after goals are becoming legendary, his conducting and chanting with the away fans at Wigan helped make him a favourite with travelling Gooners, plus the fake drinking of the beer against Manchester City and the sneaking off with the ball with van Persie arguing with Krul against Newcastle were frankly hilarious.

Ultimately, Szczesny has had a decent season when comparing him to other top level goalkeepers, but he’s had a great one compared to other 22 year old stoppers. He’s not a goalkeeper who is short of confidence, and he’s shown that he can recover quickly from the mistakes he makes. He just has to be careful that his huge amount of confidence doesn’t become his undoing. He shouldn’t get complacent as Arsenal’s number one, and hopefully he’ll only improve in the next few years. Between the posts has been a position where we’ve had numerous problems in recent season, hopefully we’ve found someone that has the talent, presence and personality to fill the position for numerous years. Szczesny now has a solid first full season to build on.

Season Rating: 6/10

21. Lukasz Fabianski

It’s been a difficult season for Lukasz Fabianski. There was a time during 2010/11 where it
seemed like he was cementing his place as first choice in the first team, however a should injury in January kept him out for the rest of the season, knocked his confidence, and allowed Wojciech Szczesny into the team. Fabianski appeared in the cup competitions, and gave some solid performances, but he couldn’t replace his compatriot as number one. He appeared in one Champions League game, and made a mistake that allowed Olympiakos to score.

I think he’s a good number two, but I can understand why he wants to leave. He was close to making a breakthrough at Arsenal, but luck deserted him. As he’s competing with Szczesny for the number one spot for his country as well, I won’t be surprised if he leaves the club this season.

Season Rating: 2/10

24. Vito Mannone

Italian Vito Mannone was another goalkeeper whose season was affected by injury, and the
form of those in front of him in the pecking order. He made just the one substitute appearance for Arsenal in the season, and unfortunately for him it was a memorable one for the wrong reasons. He replaced the injured Fabianski at Olympiakos, and conceded a bizarre goal when he took a huge swing at the ball trying to kick it clear, missed, and it went in. He could have just casually caught the ball if he realised the ball was in his penalty area.

Like Fabianski, I’ll be surprised if he has a future at Arsenal with other young goalkeepers coming up behind him. He did well in his loan spell at Hull, so I think it’ll be better for his career for him to leave Arsenal.

Season Rating: 1/10

Follow ESPNsoccernetFC on Twitter


Posted by sainty on 06/01/2012

I agree with the ratings, and I am glad that you did not shy away from some of W.S faults. He had a good season for a premier league keeper, and when his age is factored in the fade towards the end of season and the possible injury explains some average performances when we needed him at his best. Let's hope he continues to grow and doesn't plateau, but overall I never groan when he's in the net.
The others? Not good enough for the division. Almunia's many gaffs are well documented and he probably should have been released last August to find another team. Lukasz seems like a he is in a dreamland about his ability; he is injured more than any backup keeper I can think of, and was below average when I saw him. He's crazy if he thinks he can compete with W.S, he's not even close. Vito? Well, that horrendous error in Greece was the funniest/worst thing I saw last year, and like the other two backups, he would be best served moving on.

Sam, who are the young keepers you mentioned?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. The best of them is probably Damien Martinez. He's already been called up for Argentina before, and has impressed for the reserves.

Posted by gunner138098 on 06/01/2012

hi sam!great to have you back!missed your posts BIG TIME!!agree with your ratings !sam, do you feel Arsenal need to sign another gk?there were talks of Vorm & some gk from the Norway league!!now that almunia's been released & Manone & Fabianski asking to leave,surely Szczesny can't be the only man between the sticks!!

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. If Fabianski and Mannone leave, then I think we will need another one. I could see the three next season being Szczesny, a new signing and Damien Martinez.

Posted by mwylie on 06/01/2012

Unfortunately I don't share your enthusiam about Szczesny. Too reliant on his quick reflexes, average reading of the game, and poor when kicking downfield. My biggest complaint? Poor communication coordinating his back four. Arsenal's defensive organization was all over the map this season. In my book, the keeper must captain the defense around his goal, and so the captain must take the lion's share of blame when organization is lacking. Perhaps he is young, and this (as well as his reading of the game) will improve with experience. Frankly, I would prefer Arsenal buy an "older head" for keeper right now, but on a limited transfer budget, there are bigger needs in other positions in the squad. I do expect Szczesny to grow into his role over time, but while we're waiting, Szczesny is sure to produce some moments of head-scratching and annoyance alongside other moments of brilliance. Oh well - keeps life interesting, doesn't it?

Posted by Jesse on 06/01/2012

Sam, well done, especially in pointing out what a credit WS is in his enthusiasm and love for the club. To nit pick a bit, I think it'd be fair to bump Mssr. Szczesny up to a 7/10 -- while I appreciate your willingness to objectively (and rightly) criticize Wojciech's failings, if you step back a bit and remember the woeful insecurity of our goalkeeping position just a year and a half ago, the Arsenal is in such a better position today. But please do retain your skepticism when it comes time to urge the club to open the purse strings and strengthen the squad!

Posted by curtis on 06/01/2012

I have to say last year I really wanted fabianski to prove his critics. His injuries ruined his progress though. Who do u think will be the new backup signing?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I don't know who we could sign as a back-up, but I doubt we'd spend much money on them.

Posted by Titansgunners12thman on 06/01/2012

A Goalkeeper is only as good as his defense. Since you are sayng that Szczeny had an up and down year -a 6 rating is middle of the road- we have to put that on the ragtag bunch of defenders in front of him. I feel infinitely better with him in goal as apposed to Fabinski, but until our defense becomes better, our goalkeeper will be left in many a pickle.

I am still waiting for activity in the transfer market. Let's see what Wenger conjures up this summer...

Posted by Hussam on 06/01/2012

We've missed u Sam,
What exams were u taking? We hope u did well anyway.. I know this blog is about keepers but i also hope ull keep us updated about transfer possibilities(not ne rumors).. is there neway in heaven that neymar can sign for us? His clause is 40million, which is steep by arsenal standards but if enough deadwood is released nd IF RVP leaves why not? He's young plus he'll fit perfectly behind two strikers in a 4-3-3(just like u no who).. Him plus an extra holding mid & a competent defender, we'll do wonders..
Thanks again..

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. If serious transfer stories emerge, then I'll talk about them. Neymar? Can never see that happening.

Posted by Sejo on 06/01/2012

Well written sam i missed u its a coincidence that i also had egzams during that period n am sitting for the final paper of the semister 2moro...sam i dont have much to comment bt am a bit scared if wenger will make some investments in the team tho its still to early?? As to our goalkeeper we secured in that position

Posted by Anonymous on 06/01/2012

szczesny is a boss my rating 10

Posted by Qasim Hassan on 06/01/2012

Dear Sam,

It seems as though even if M'Vila returns for Euros, he will price himself out for Arsenal. I know there's still quality defensive midfielders available like Javi Martinez, Capoue, and maybe Ahmedov. However, it brings up the question why Arsene didn't seize the initiative and get M'Vila when he was in our grasp. What are your thoughts? Additionally, do you think Giroud is a good signing for us and what's the right price for Doumbia? Lastly, glad to see you back at work, totally agree with your analysis on GK's. Interested to see your defender end of season exam.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure how close we were/are to signing M'Vila, so we may still end up getting him. Not just down to Wenger, the player and his current club might want to delay any potential move. Giroud has done well for Montpellier and could be a good back-up for RvP. I've not seen much of Doumbia so can't give you a price.

Posted by mustafa on 06/02/2012

Hi Sam, good to have you back. I agree with your analysis of the goalkeepers. Considering the situation we had before WS established himself between the posts, the situation now looks better. Despite some notable errors from WS, the defense is to blame for most of the goals he conceded. No matter how good a goalkeeper is, if the defense is rubbish then its more likely he will concede more goals. by the time Wenger started at Arsenal, i believe David Seamen was past his best, but the soldiers in front of him made all the difference. if Wenger can strengthen his back-line, then WS would definitely be the best in the division. Fabianski and Manone should go, and get a quality understudy for WS (Vorm?)

Posted by Choy on 06/02/2012

I couldn't agree more that only W.S could be evaluated and that's the score i'd give him as well.
Hopefully for the next season he can keep more clean sheets and win us more games, his rating will improve. With the departure of Almunia and probably Fabianski i'm wondering if Arsene will bring in a competitor or understudy to W.S ? Hopefully we could see a few vibrant transfer during the off season.

Posted by Boniface83 on 06/02/2012

Welcome back Sam. Hope your exams were successful. Since we talking goalkeepers now,Almunia out the door swiftly trailed by Fabianski and Mannone is good for Wojciech Szczesny since none offer him stiff competition. Jussi Jaaskelainan is up for grabs from the Trotters. We need experience to back the young Pole up or even rival him for first team place. Jussi is a world class keeper who would offer him this.Szczesny is an answer to that position but AW should make it easier by fortifying that defence with one more quality CB and DM(m'Vila or someone else) and start working on our possession football which is a key to a good defense not just new players. Wilshere better be fit next season to show this big money spenders to nurture homegrown talents.
Honestly RVP should just bow to loyalty and sign that contract. He was always missed in the past season from injury ala Diaby but Wenger stuck with him.The clubs aspiration to move forward depends on hima and players of his personality.

Posted by gunner138098 on 06/02/2012

sam,what do you think about signing Stuart taylor(man c) or Kruszcak(man u),both nearing the end of their contracts and may be available free?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We could probably get better players in, but Stuart Taylor has done well for Arsenal in the past, notably in 2002 when he won a Premier League medal.

Posted by charlie on 06/03/2012

Good post. Totally agree with your comments. It is obvious that Arsene will try to get an experienced back up keeper next year.
Too bad that Yussi J is apparently going to WHU. What about Craig Gordon? Is he damaged goods? A few years ago, he was on Arsenal's radar. He could be a decent option if ift.
Szczesny needs to continue to work though, particularly on his mediocre kicking downfield and his overall reading of the game.

Posted by Ari on 06/03/2012

As another GK we should definitely look into either Jaaskelainen, Sørensen, Green, or how about Ryan Meara the GK for NY Red Bulls. He could be good competition.

Posted by stewart on 06/04/2012

I was watching some kids programs with my children yesterday and i hear the name "David Seaman". I look up and there his is, minus the moustache. Didn't look much different from his playing days. Great voice for tv. Very surreal. I was half expecting Alan Shearer to appear and David would make a world class penalty save. Thanx for all your work over the season. Let's hope we can replace the dud players with some good ones and improve on this season.

Posted by Ari on 06/04/2012

We should get Craig Gordon. He is amazing when he is not hurt and it is a free transfer.

Posted by Canberra Gooner on 06/04/2012

Perhaps "no rating" would be kinder to those who didn't really play.

I think he was better than a 6/10. He was dependable which is very important for creating confidence in the defence (not that they repaid the favour). A goal keeper can only do some much at EPL level if the team in front keeps allowing high numbers of chances to be created. And our defence, as a team, was poor. I will be interested to read your assessment them.

I think we should let Mannone go and promote Martinez with Fab as number two. Though, if there is money I agree that a strong 2nd to keep WS on his toes would be best and Fab could go.

Posted by Knowles2 on 06/04/2012

The goal keeper was one of two bright spot this season, Van Persie being the other one. But I am not sure Arsenal or Arsene should commit transfer funds and time to find another one, Mannone should be given another chance. The other two should be let go.

Posted by I.Nace on 06/04/2012

Hi Sam and gunners again! I am an Arsenal fan for 40 years following from USA, mostly watching on the Tv, but I'm fan and this is my opinion!
Szczesny is young and is doing mostly fine and he will grow when the defence gets stronger.He is big, dinamic, reliable, positional and good reflexes, but need consintency at 100% in every game. For me definitely for now and the future. Almunia could be a good sport, but I'm sorry he definitely was gone before. To many mistakes cost us to many points, if not trophies, not reliable. By-by & good luck to him. Fabianski, good reflexes, but the guy is always on the rash, like we're down 1:0 last 5 min, does't know to control the game or communicate with defence, like playing on high school game. He can go, I don't see him growing, unless he wants to stay on the bench for a long time. As for Manone I haven't seen him to much, but I don't think he wants to stay on the bench either, so move on.

Posted by Noel on 06/04/2012

I see that Craig Gordon is available on a free after being released by Sunderland. If Fabianski chooses to leave, I hope Wenger can sign him up as he is a Scottish international, a more than capable no.2 and can provide motivation and competition to WS. And wasn't he linked with us two seasons ago when we were looking at possibilities of signing a GK?

Posted by makun olayinka on 06/05/2012

Good one sam!am waiting for your end of the year examz on the the arsenal midfelders and am equally waiting for your rating to read your blog on ramsy!

Posted by Tonyblair on 06/05/2012

Yes o.., Sir Sam i agree with and i rate ur rating 99%. I like the way u pointed everything out, i hope W.S will read this and correct some of his mistake because His confidence is getting too much that he do leave his base line and clever strikers get him by surprise. So he can do better than that obviously He is a good keeper and can go on to win the best keeper by next season if he correct those small small error. Thanks for this plat form of this rating. Keep it going.

Posted by USA_FL_Gunner on 06/05/2012

I agree that Szczesny, at times, is too quick off his line. Another constructive criticism I have, that you didn't mention, is that his distribution at times is lacking and occasionally puts the team in poor positions. Also, will someone tell him he's not a field player and to stop dribbling so much and clear the ball. One day he will pay for trying to be so cute with the ball. Dispite these shortcomings, he has brought stability to a position that has been lacking since the departure of Seaman. I'm fearful as to what will happen were he to be injured. In my opinion, with the other keepers leaving, a solid backup keeper to Szczesny should take priority.

Posted by OFEGE on 06/05/2012

I think ur rating of GK is good but i believe Szczesny deserves more.

Posted by TassieGunner on 06/06/2012

Pretty sad when the best your goal keepers can muster is 8 out of 40

Something needs to be done - great goal keepers build great teams

Posted by Emmanuel Denhere on 06/06/2012

Though im nt an arsenal fan bt i do sympathise wth fabianski coz hes been a gd goalie

Posted by howcheng on 06/06/2012

Brad Guzan was just released by Aston Villa. He would be great signing.

Posted by Abhinav Jain on 06/07/2012

Hey Sam, really good article. Pretty much sums up what I've been feeling about our goalkeeping this season. But there have been a few articles here and there about szczesny wanting to leave to Barcelona or to a 'bigger' team sometime in the future which worries me. Anyways, I've been trying to scour the internet to find that video about him sneaking away with the ball against Newcastle. You've mentioned that incident quite a bit this season in your blogs. I was wondering if you were able to find so that I could have a look at it?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Couldn't find a video, but here's a good picture of it

Posted by bezihalem on 06/07/2012

arsenal must keep top players ws RVP

Posted by Alicia on 06/17/2012

his future lay in Wengers hands, that if a club put a plyaer for sale then the club wasn't satisfied with the plyaer, and that he is happy being an Arsenal plyaer. Fab has never said he wants to leave, never, not even on twitter. At least that's respect for his club, the whole noise is been spread by Barca plyaers and by the media, especially the English media and it's such a shame. I wish Fab stays, and even if he leaves I will wish Him well. I blame the unnamed and Idiotic Arsenal Director who secretely told the press that Arsenal will sell at the right price. If it werent for that lousy comment, the noise would have been less, especially after Wenger publicly declared his ambition to hold unto his plyaers. Ever since that comment, the English media have interpreted it as Arsenal looking for Cesc buyers . That has been the headlines till date. Arsenal should be big enough to say we wont sell if they dont wanna sell, and and not to be muscled to sell Barca price. 40m for Fab??? What a joke?As for Nasri, I wont miss him, he is a great dribbler for 5 aside, and thats about it. He is lazy and exposed Clichy countless times when he failed to cover during the overlaps. His head fell when we needed believers the most, he gets easily frustrated and tries to fight rather than play. He is one of the culprits that had no winning mentality. He had few shiny days and lots of terrible performances, He got missing countless number of times and couldnt even shine against hard and big sides. Nasri cannot change the course of a game and is not a match winner. He should go on and join our rivals. We need winners, not those who complete the numbers. 0 0

Posted by Canberra Gooner on 06/20/2012

Hi Sam
When's the next post and who's next?

Sam Limbert: The defenders blog is about to come.

  Post your comment
Email Address:
characters left
David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

RSS feed

Recent Posts