Good afternoon Arsenal FC Bloggers.
I’ve picked up a fairly nasty cold over the past couple of days so today’s post is a bit of a sniffly one. It’s also full of guest-posty goodness – something I’ll talk about shortly – but before then I have couple of quick Arsenal-related news stories to get through:
- Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs played in the U21 Euro Championship Final overnight but their English side were absolutely smashed 4-0 by Germany. You can see all the goals here.
- Apparently we’re showing some interest in 22-year-old Stuttgart central defender Serdar Tasci. Whether the speculation has some legs is debatable, but with Thomas Vermaelen arriving unless one of William Gallas or Kolo Toure leaves there’s probably no need for another defender. A central midfielder on the other hand…
And that is that for news. Now to the good stuff.
Guest Post Tuesdays
As I mentioned earlier, I’m excited to announce that today’s post will feature the first article of what will now be dubbed Guest Post Tuesdays. The idea to let readers have their say via article writing is something that I’ve been wanting to start for some time now, and I’m happy to say that Guest Post Tuesdays will make that a reality.
Each week I will be including an opinion piece from various readers of the blog in order to give you guys more of a say and give myself a bit of a break on what is usually a very slow news day. It’s a win-win.
Basically, if you feel you have something worth saying about Arsenal and the writing skills to back it up, I’d encourage you to send an email to guestposts[at]arsenalfcblog[dot]com (just remove ‘at’ and ‘dot’ and put in the appropriate punctuation) outlining your idea or if you’re really keen, including a completed article. Alternatively, you could get in touch with me via Facebook or Twitter to register your interest.
You’re piece will likely be seen by 3000+ readers which is certainly no kick in the teeth if you’re a budding writer or blogger, or even someone who just likes to feel popular. And let’s face it, we all love to feel popular from time to time.
Today’s guest post comes from John Law, an Arsenal fan and regular reader of the blog from England with a soft spot for Manuel Almunia. It’s a lovely piece and I’d encourage you to let John know what you think in the comments. Enjoy!
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If there is one man at Arsenal who does not gain the recognition he deserves it is Manuel Almunia. What this man has achieved when one considers his ability is something fairly unique and phenomenal. Fellow Gooners may well look at his CV and put him alongside goalkeepers at other top clubs such as Buffon and Casillas and think what on earth am I going on about?
Take yourself back to 2004 where he signed as a keeper who had previously been loaned out by Celta Vigo because he was not good enough to make their bench! He arrived at Arsenal and did not play for a while. Once he did play he gifted Man Utd a 1-0 win in the Carling Cup and made an error against Rosenborg in a Champions League match where we were lucky enough to put 5 past them.
Who would have thought that back then we would see the Manuel Almunia that we do today? I know I could not have imagined it and I doubt many other Arsenal fans could have either.
I think the first thing to note has to be the clear improvements he has made as a goalkeeper. When playing as a second choice keeper he obviously didn’t get many games. But in just a handful of games back then than over the course of a season such as the one we have just had. Other essential factors to being a goal-keeper such as his shot stopping and distribution have also seen clear improvements. These are things which can only be achieved through dedication and hard work which is why he finds himself in complete control of the number one jersey at Arsenal.
Something else which he must be commended for is the manner in which he conducts himself both on and off the pitch. When playing second fiddle to Lehmann, never did he speak out of turn. If a journalist asked him on the matter he would be confident about it but never arrogant, malicious or bitter.
Having cemented himself as the 2nd choice keeper he still had to wait until October 2007 to have a real crack at becoming Arsenal’s number 1 between the sticks; having improved throughout each season. It was a chance which he seized with both hands in spite of constant jibing in the press and no doubt at the training ground from mad Jens (who by the way I am also a big fan of but he certainly made life difficult for old Manuel!). Not only did Almunia cement his place as first choice keeper but he is now without doubt one of the senior players in the side who any youngster must surely look up to, even skippering the side on several occasions.
When dealing with the press he is superb and with quotes like this after a 2-0 loss to Porto, one cannot help but feel the man is a genuinely decent human being who knows how lucky he is; something a lot of modern day footballers appear to lack. These comments seemed to echo some of Gallas’ thoughts but were simply put in the right manner:
“I was very frustrated after Porto because no matter what team we put on the pitch, everybody has to give more than they did. I don’t care that we had already qualified for the next phase, it’s a Champions League game. The club gives us everything that we need. Every time we lose, we should feel responsible. The club makes every effort to spend money for us to be comfortable everywhere and we love to win for the club. I hope that everyone realises we need to give more on the pitch to stop us having another poor result against Middlesbrough.”
If only more footballers were like this; gentlemanly, hard working and honest.
Another clear quality of his in my opinion is his dignity. When the chips are down, whether it is individually or the club as a whole he will make his contribution in bouncing back. You can bet your life on that. His only really poor Premier League game this year? Against Spurs of all teams! Yet look at the season he had after that game. When things are going well he remains calm and is one of the few who appears to not get carried away and is only too happy to be gracious towards his team mates.
I could also not write this without mentioning his performance against Manchester United in the 1st leg of that Champions League tie. I realise that we all would like to hear less about this however, it confirmed completely my view of Almunia as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers and that he fully deserves his number 1 spot at Arsenal. To keep a side in a tie single handedly against Man Utd at Old Trafford really is some achievement and anyone who saw the interview he gave after would no doubt have seen the dignity of the man again.
What has to be even more impressive this season is the consistency he has shown week in week out. Something which can only be achieved through sheer dilligence, hard work and intensity. It is one thing to gain the number one spot, to maintain it is another.
I am not going to sit here and say Manuel Almunia is one of the most talented keepers we have seen at Arsenal. That, in my opinion is a completely incorrect statement. I will however say that in sport and more to the point, life in general, you can only work with what abilities you are born with and it is down to you to make the best from it. To me Almunia is a prime example of that.
Having fully established himself now at a top four club in the best league in the world, it would be foolish to think that at 32, he is anywhere near done. For someone who probably does not have the ability of certain other keepers we have seen at Arsenal (Seaman, Wilson, Lehman etc), he more than makes up for it in other areas and I think if he has one more season like last, he will have earnt the right to be put alongside keepers such as Reina, Valdes and Dida. Furthermore, he is an absolute credit to Arsenal and football in general.
Hopefully this article has taken a small step forward in helping him obtain all the credit and recognition he deserves.
Manuel, I salute you!
Have your say on John’s guest post or anything Arsenal by leaving a comment.