Only star shot-stopper will do for Wenger

18 April 2010 08:07
Arsene Wenger rarely splashes the cash but TEAMtalk's Ian Watson believes the Arsenal boss should spend big when he goes goalkeeper shopping.

Wenger has hinted that Arsenal might be a little looser with their cash this summer and if that is the case, surely one major purchase the Gunners boss will be making is a new goalkeeper. Or even two.

Put simply, no team with either Manuel Almunia or Lukasz Fabianski in goal will ever win the Premier League. Although there are occasionally exceptions to the rule, the champions are generally built on a strong foundation, starting with a top-class keeper. Neither Almunia nor Fabianski will ever be that.

Almunia was being touted as a contender for the England number one jersey a year ago, but that is more of an indictment of the lack of quality English goalkeepers than any endorsement of the Spaniard's abilities.

Sadly, you could put a pair of gloves on a chimp at the moment and immediately it would be considered as a genuine England contender, such is the lack of real quality available to Fabio Capello, especially when compared to the likes of Spain and Germany.

Almunia is a sufficient back-up for a title-chasing club and played that role with distinction when Jens Lehmann was still around at the Emirates. But Wenger knows his current number one is just as likely to drop a clanger as he is to pull off a world-class stop, and that unpredictability - highlighted by his performance in the home draw with Barcelona - is no good to anyone at the very highest level.

Fabianski has had his chances and blown them spectacularly. If his performance in Porto had not already sealed his fate, he hammered the final nail in his own coffin by dropping the ball onto Wigan defender Titus Bramble's head at the DW Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger often preaches patience and may point to Heurelho Gomes as an example for Fabianski. The Tottenham number one endured an equally torrid time across town when he first arrived in the Premier League. But the crucial difference between the Brazilian and Fabianski is that Gomes had already shown what he was capable of in Europe with PSV. He had the talent; all he needed was time to adjust. Fabianski has given no indication that he can go on to do a job at the highest level.

In his press conference on Friday, Wenger gave the impression that he had indeed come to terms with the fact that he needs a new stopper. But the next question is, who?

Joe Hart, currently on loan at Birmingham from Manchester City, is the best English prospect and with over a decade in the sticks ahead of him, the 22-year-old fits Wenger's usual criteria. City will no doubt be reluctant to sell to a side they see as a title rival however and the Gunners boss has also had his fingers burnt before when buying expensive English potential, when Richard Wright flopped spectacularly at Highbury in 2001.

So another foreign purchase appears most likely. Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer and Igo Akinfeev have all been linked heavily with moves to the Premier League, with Lloris and Neuer said to be targets one and two respectively on Manchester United's wanted list.

Edwin van der Sar has signed on for another year at Old Trafford however so Sir Alex Ferguson may well focus on other priorities and wait another season before going for a top-class keeper. Wenger, though, cannot afford to hang around and nor can he afford to scrimp.

Lyon would take a lot of persuasion to part with Lloris, who joined the French club only two years ago for around £7.5million. But with Arsenal's title hopes currently in the hands of two keepers who are likely to drop them at any given moment, the French number one would - almost certainly - eventually make any sub-£20million deal look like a bargain for the Gunners.

Source: Team_Talk