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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Finally an announcement, Manuel Almunia - once a Gunner...

Not much of a surprise

Arsenal have finally got around to announcing the signing of Santi Cazorla from Malaga. It would be fair to say this wasn't much of a secret. Over the past week it's been announced by everyone except Arsenal that Cazorla had joined. I don't understand why it always takes Arsenal so long to get around to things like this as it takes away all the excitement from a major signing. Having said that, I suppose the important thing is that the deal has been done and that Cazorla is an Arsenal player.
Arsene Wenger has told us that the new man can play out wide on either flank, or in the centre of the midfield. I believe his signing is something of an admission that Jack Wilshere is in trouble with his injuries (and maybe Tomas Rosicky's latest problem has shown the sheer folly of awarding him a two year deal back in the Spring). Less than a fortnight ago we were told by Wenger that midfield was a congested area at the Club. Now we have signed an experienced Spanish international. Cazorla's arrival can have real consequences for some of the players in the squad. Henri Lansbury is almost certainly a goner, while Aaron Ramsey will see his workload significantly reduced, you would think. For Ramsey this will be no bad thing. The Welshman struggled badly after Christmas, and a year of being more of a bit-part squad man might just do him a lot of good.
The man who is set to feel the arrival of Cazorla more keenly than anyone is Theo Walcott. It seems more and more obvious that Walcott and his people are trying to play the same sort of long game with Arsenal that Sol Campbell played with Spurs. There is a lot of kicking cans down roads, but no indication whatsoever that he wants to remain at Arsenal. Despite his limited ability Theo is very marketable in terms of a big signing-on fee in any free transfer. The reaction of the crowds to him when he got the ball out in China and Hong Kong showed that he is still very highly thought of elsewhere - he is a star player, without the ability of one. With Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski knocking about I think Walcott will struggle to get a game at Arsenal this season. It would not surprise me to see Arsenal call his bluff and accept a bid for him before the transfer window closes.
One more observation on the signing of Cazorla before I move on - the new away kit launches this week yet Cazorla, a star signing, has not been given a squad number for youngsters to get his name on their shirts. Heaven forbid Arsenal might make some money through merchandising.

When I wrote on Sunday I promised to talk about what a nice guy Manuel Almunia must be. In truth, that is probably why he lacked the necessary qualities of a truly top class goalkeeper. There is seemingly nothing ruthless about Manuel. He appears to be a quiet kind of guy, whose confidence can be easily shot - as we found to our considerable cost on occasion. However, it should be noted that he is clearly Arsenal through and through.
When he was dropped from the team (and basically ostracised by the Manager last season) Almunia kept his counsel (as did Jens Lehmann before him). This week Manuel has told us that he thinks Arsenal can have success this season, such is the quality we've brought in. Not for him the unnecessary digs that Fabregas and co had about us after leaving. The sad fact is that, after the way he was treated, Almunia might actually have been within his rights to have a go. Instead of that he has nothing but positive things to say about the Club.
It seems to me that Almunia probably knows (and knew all along) that he wasn't really good enough to be a first-choice goalkeeper at Arsenal. As a result of that he is exceptionally grateful for the chance that he got to play at one of the World's biggest Clubs. It wasn't all mistakes when he was in goal, and he had a couple of very good spells (even spoken about in the press as a possible England player at one point) and some exceptional performances. Sadly he will be remembered as a bit of a joker by many because of some high-profile gaffes. That's a shame for such a genuinely nice guy. Personally I will remember Manuel Almunia as a man who wore the Arsenal shirt with a thankful pride, and as a goalkeeper who was at Premier League level, but not among the big clubs. Good luck to him at Watford - I think he'll do well now he's playing a bit beneath himself.

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