When do excuses become inexcusable? When does ‘support’ become delusional and counterproductive? In a week when he was accused of having an affair with a ‘semi-pro’ French rapper, maybe Arsene Wenger wasn’t as focused as he should have been on the challenge presented Newcastle, but sadly his goalkeeping problems pre-date alleged infidelities by some considerable distance.
We’ve discussed Lukasz Fabianski before. The general conclusion was he is a talented goalkeeper too prone to drops in concentration and errors to be considered first choice for any team with domestic and European glory in their sights. Sadly, with every month that passes that prophecy looks more accurate rather than being disproved.
As I’ve said countless times before, the Ministry Of Glove isn’t about bashing goalkeepers for mistakes. As we saw against Man City, Fabianski is a talented player. His reflexes are top class and his shot-stopping impressive. Where he falls down and has fallen down on several occasions is his decision making and subsequent errors. The goal against the Magpies was an excellent example. The mistake in this case wasn’t the decision to come for the cross. The ball into the box was lofted and came from almost the halfway line. It takes almost four seconds from the moment Barton takes the free kick until Andy Carroll gets his head on it. It may not seem like a lot of time, but four seconds should be more than enough time for a top class keeper to judge the flight of the ball and time his run so he can jump and collect the ball at his highest possible point. In this case, Fabianski surged out of his goal, checked his run and by the time he decides to continue has lost the bulk of the momentum he needed to rise above the attackers. In the end, he makes a limp and mistimed attempt to clear the ball whilst Carroll – who’s timed his run perfectly to get the maximum purchase – is those crucial few inches above his flailing arms. It’s good aggressive play from the rising star striker, but any top class keeper should be able to take control of the situation better.
It leaves Wenger with a problem most of the footballing world saw coming. Now Almunia and Fabianksi can only be considered liabilities. He’s got the very talented Wojciech Szczesny coming through, but throwing such a raw talent into the first team under the circumstances has the potential to crush a budding career. With whoever Arsenal stick between the posts from now on likely to be heavily scrutinised, should Szczesny make an error or a semblance of an error, he’ll be written off as the latest Gunner’s goalkeeping flop. It would be an unfair, untrue and sensationalist view, but at the same time a view that would weight heavy on the mind of any professional, let alone a teenager finding his way in his chosen profession.
Arsenal fans must be raging. This has been a problem for such a long time yet once again it’s in danger of undermining their challenge for silverware. Arsene Wenger has made this bed and now he’s got to lie in it. What he does in his private life is up to him.