Goalkeepers and Madmen: Almunia’s Dignified Exit But Should We Go Dutch On Humble Pie?

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Amongst the attributes needed for a footballer, a thick skin is probably one near the top of the list, particularly at a club where expectations are high. Being a goalkeeper, the expectation is higher with no hiding places when mistakes are made. When a new goalkeeper usurps the old, they need to be good. Very good, especially if the old was highly rated and followed an even more highly-rated custodian. There’s no escaping criticism. Goalkeeping errors more often than not, lead to goals being conceded.

The received wisdom is that you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper. A shy, sensitive character is not someone you would expect to thrive in such a position but may be that was Manuel Almunia’s madness; putting himself in a position where he could be subjected to derision. There must have been times when he wished he was back in Pamplona with the horses. And yet, he stayed put, waiting for an exit to emerge, retaining his dignity in situations where others have bleated to the press about the lack of opportunities afforded them.

Maybe he just needed a better agent to get him the column inches. I don’t think so. He was what we might ordinarily refer to as a bloody nice bloke. My oldest who met him at the pre-season photoshoot in 2005 still thinks so. Almunia and Reyes were walking down the tunnel talking in Spanish when a little voice turned around and spoke to them in their native tongue. Reyes smiled and continued walking; Almunia stayed and spoke, his inherent kindness showing through.

But his career at Arsenal brings mixed memories. He suffered from a lack of confidence and consistency; that transmitted to what has become an unforgiving crowd. At Arsenal, if you do not produce the goods for a spell, you are never forgiven even if you do at a later date. Continually blamed for defeat in Paris – easier than criticising Henry for missing chances that would normally have been scored or Lehmann for being sent off. A scapegoat who is not a legend is much simpler.

Almunia was capable of outstanding brilliance – United and Barcelona in the Champions League spring to mind immediately. Capable of mistakes, sometimes in the same match. The final straw came for the manager against West Bromwich Albion, even though he was not the only culprit. But when a manager loses confidence in a goalkeeper, that custodian is on his way out.

And still after it all, Almunia bears no ill-will. He accepts his part in his own downfall,

I have big regrets about that game because maybe if I had stopped playing I would have played many more games for ­Arsenal. It was such a difficult time. At half-time I had been so happy about saving a penalty, but everything then went wrong for me, and I couldn’t understand why.

Sometimes its fate, sometimes its a combination of poor form by the majority of the team on the pitch. Sometimes it just is.

Throughout Almunia has been silent, uncomplaining; his dignity offers a lesson to us all.

It wasn’t a good moment for me when the Arsenal fans jeered me, and the end was very tough.

It was so, so hard to cope with. One day you are number one and ­everybody wants you, and the next day you disappear. I am quite a ­sensitive person and I am not good in the bad moments.

 I didn’t talk to anybody about how I felt because I don’t like to disturb people with my problems. Maybe that was a mistake as well, maybe I should have talked to somebody.

Perhaps someone should have spoken to him? We have to remember this is his side of the story, the manager might reflect differently. Ultimately, Arsène has not treated Almunia any more differently than he had Lehmann or others who have fallen from grace. Successful managers have a ruthless streak and the pursuit of glory demands that. His relationship with Lehmann was fractious with the German’s competitiveness the underlying reason; it’s better now according to the Spaniard which is probably some relief.

And despite all this, he remains in love with the club,

But now I have left, all I have in my heart is good memories and good thoughts for Arsenal, the manager, the players and the fans. I would love to go back there with Watford. That would be my dream.

He might not be so happy if recent reports are true of potential signings and doors swinging open for malcontents. Arsenal possess at this moment, a squad of rich attacking potential. Contractual negotiations may alter that but with departures come arrivals; who knows whether anything will be the same in a fortnight’s time.

As it is, good luck to Almunia at Watford. As a swansong, there would be some justice in a genuinely nice man achieving success.

’til Tomorrow.

229 thoughts on “Goalkeepers and Madmen: Almunia’s Dignified Exit But Should We Go Dutch On Humble Pie?

  1. Watching the Olympics over here is rubbish. You have to stay away from the internet and espn so you don’t see who won the blow wow races because they are showing the blow wow thing way down in the blow wow night.

    Blow wow!

  2. Jonny, a somewhat cocky little kid of around seven, was sitting in class doing math problems when his teacher picked him to answer a question, “Jonny, if there were five birds sitting on a fence and you shot one with your gun, how many would be left?”

    “None,” replied Jonny, “cause the rest would fly away.”

    “Well, the answer is four,” said the teacher, “but I like the way you’re thinking.”

    Jonny smiles and says, “I have a question for you. If there were three women eating ice cream cones in a shop, one was licking her cone, the second was biting her cone and the third was sucking her cone, which one is married?”

    “Well,” said the teacher nervously, “I guess the one sucking the cone.”

    “No,” said Jonny, “the one with the wedding ring on her finger, but I like the way you’re thinking.”

    Now where did I leave my coat?…..

  3. Petty. Mean-spirited. Classless. Lack of self-awareness. Insensitive. Lack of compassion. No decency.

    I guess I could go on, but precisely the sort of sniveling tit I mentioned earlier.

  4. Almunia wasn’t fit to wear the shirt as number 1 GK. He made undeserved millions as wages. Good riddance. Djourou, Bendtner, Chamack, Fiabianski, Mannone, Squilacci should all follow him.

  5. MikeSA

    on my macbook…..by pressing command and + (sign) you get magnification….
    or command and – the opposite.

    don’t own an ipad but keyboards should function similarly

  6. Bizarre. Sounds like GM guy failed on the due diligence front.

    As readers at Untold point out in comments over there, GM was bailed out in 2008 by US taxpayers to the tune of $US85 billion. Has GM paid back all the bailout cash it received?

    And if not, where does that leave this deal in terms of FFP? Can clubs unable to sustain themselves legally accept sponsorship $$$ from entities that in turn are unable to sustain themselves? It’s like a frickkin’ hall of mirrors out there, I tell ya!

    Maybe we need to ask for Chinese government sponsorship when our shirt deal comes up for renewal – Emirates is state-backed airline, owned by the government of Dubai, so why not switch to Air China, which is wholly owned by the People’s Republic? China has a huge trade surplus, so I’m sure they’d be happy to slip some of that our way.

    Why else were we playing the Blue Mancs in the Birds’ Nest?

  7. Jeeez, what a pathetic existence you must lead Maturks. A change of nem hasnt changed your tedious tune has it?

    Arse hole.

    Footballers are millionaires whether any of us like it or not.

  8. PaulN: NBC coverage is total rubbish. Apparently track doesn’t get coverage anymore since those pesky Jamaicans are winning the glamor races now that the drug cheats have been exposed. (I am fully aware that Ben Johnson and Linford Christie were of Jamaican heritage. Shame on them just as well.)
    Try this link for live BBC-1 coverage:

  9. Pure Rubbish, Shotta!

    Show the thing live and replay again in the evening!

    Thanks for the link, mi bredrin.

  10. I can’t take credit for the design, I found it somewhere on the net and it just spoke to me, so I had to use it by way of an homage!

  11. MDGunner – As I have no idea what “comment.e” is, my lawyers have advised me to ignore your cease and desist letter. Maybe next time you will double check your spelling before going all legal on my Irish ass. Had 2 Jamaican beef patties tonight by the way, very good! Obviously not one of your recipes 🙂

  12. Classless post to be honest. He had his bad days but it was clearly a mental issue rather than talent, because he’s proven a few times in an Arsenal shirt that he has got the skill. The man’s gone now, how about being a bit more respectful to a player who loves Arsenal and it’s fans. Those loyalty traits are hard to find in a world full of Nasri’s and Adebayor’s.

  13. Team Spirit

    There’s something wrong your end. The default setting for links is to open in new tabs; it always has been on ACLF despite apparently being the wrong thing to do. When I click on the links in Firefox, they open in a new tab.

  14. That’s interesting, I don’t appear to be able to reply to PG’s last reply to me (“doing a you”).

  15. Almunia is a nice guy, and his goodwill towards Arsenal is great to hear. On his day an excellent shot-stopper as well. I’m sure all fair minded gooners wish him success at Watford.

  16. Always liked this guy. Massively athletic when fit. Saw him save a pen against spurs a few seasons ago. Just stuffed Keano. Fucking brilliant. I hope he turns it around.

    Good luck at Watford Almunia!

  17. That’s the cue for a welter of German jokes.

    Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control at Athens airport.
    “Nationality?” asks the immigration officer.
    “German,” she replies.
    “No, just here for a few days.”

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