Despite having not watched the Arsenal vs Everton match in full, from what I’ve heard from those who did and from what I’ve seen on Match of the Day, Almunia is our weak link. When he’s not clattering our own players, he’s being indecisive and ending up putting our team in danger. For Everton’s first goal, he was off his line practically wrestling with Saha, the ball came in, Osman headed it and Almunia was nowhere near it, and for some reason didn’t even attempt to save the ball. Fair enough, Denilson on the back post might have done better, but that doesn’t excuse Almunia’s apparent lack of interest of the ball. And for Everton’s second goal, he committed himself far too early, one of the cardinal sins of goalkeeping. He made it easy for Pienaar to just lift the ball over him, and another goal against us that’s Almunia’s fault.
Others goals that have been his fault include Portsmouth’s goal against us in August, Kuyt’s against us in December, the penalty was silly to concede against United – even though it was a dive Almunia made it easy for Rooney to make it seem like he’d been fouled and he made it impossible for the referee to tell Rooney was cheating as usual – he came miles off his line and failed to communicate with Vermaelen (or so it seemed) against Chelsea when Vermaelen scored the own goal.. the list is seemingly endless.
I stuck up for Almunia last season when his critics came, he had a good game against Manchester United in the first leg of the semi in the CL, but now it’s clear that he is the weak link in our team. Fabianski is definitely better than him, and while the young Pole is just that, young, and slightly error-prone at the worst of times, he’s a terrific shot stopper and is, unlike Almunia, commanding when the ball comes into his area. Yes he came miles off of his line against Chelsea which allowed Drogba an easy goal, but if it was Almunia he would have changed his mind about his decision constantly, much like he does with his hair at times.
And now onto the defensive midfield problem. With Denilson having collapsed on the pitch and Alex Song being in Africa for 5/6 games, we need someone to play the anchorman. Abou Diaby would be good there, if he could actually tackle, let alone defend, Aaron Ramsey just isn’t cut out for that position in my opinion… Tomas Rosicky? Samir Nasri? Both attacking midfielders but as a quick fix maybe they could work – what other options do we have? What point is there in buying a defensive midfielder so he can play 7 games every other season when Song leaves for the African Cup of Nations, and a couple of games if he ever gets injured? The only other options we have are the youngsters, Eastmond, Coquelin and Frimpong, perhaps even Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
I knew of Eastmond as a full back/centre half before he excelled in the defensive midfield position against Liverpool(‘s reserves) and from what I’ve seen and heard of Frimpong and Coquelin they’re both very talented, the same goes for Emmanuel-Thomas. It would certainly be a risk putting a teenager in a vital position for 6 games that could decide our season, but Arsene might be thinking of doing just that. In 2005, when we had a central midfield crisis, he threw a youngster by the name of Francesc Fabregas in there, and we all know how that turned out. But on the other hand, Cesc had played a fair amount of games in the previous season, unlike Frimpong, Coquelin, Eastmond or Emmanuel-Thomas.
I really hope our injury problems ease up a little bit, obviously. Walcott, Cesc, Denilson, van Persie, Clichy, Gibbs, Bendtner… all injured. Although I suppose in a way, Bendtner’s injury could be a blessing in disguise; Fabregas’ long term injury last season led to Arsene signing Arshavin in January, and he’s been a fantastic signing, without Cesc’s injury Arshavin would probably not be at the Club. So maybe Bendtner being injured for a while could mean we get a great player in this window, although I can’t think of too many available strikers for the right price and of the right style.
On the plus side, Manchester United dropped points again, this time to Birmingham. I can’t really complain about their goal being flukey, considering the nature of our goals against Everton… I can still moan about Fergie’s moaning though, considering he claimed Darren Fletcher (hate him) should not have been sent off. Ridiculous. The first challenge was worthy of a red on it’s own maybe, and the second was just cynical, Fletcher knew what he was doing.