One For All And All For One! Three Goalkeeping Musketeers Remain

I’m aware there were four musketeers but in the blink of an eye, Unai Emery’s wish for three first-team goalkeepers came true. Matt Macey went on loan to Plymouth for the season followed out of the door by David Ospina, whose year-long loan to Besiktas is the precursor for a free transfer next summer. The Turks must pay a €1.5m loan fee.

To put Ospina’s deal in context, the Times reports this morning that Manchester City are in the same boat with Joe Hart. The headline screamed they want £5m, the article declares they will give him a free transfer if that’s what it takes. While that may signal how much of a burden on their salary structure he is, it’s also a buyers market.

Ospina didn’t set the world on fire at the club but it wasn’t all bad. The trouble with goalkeepers is that unless they are exceptional – Wilson, Jennings, Seaman – or play in an exceptional team – Lehmann – you remember their mistakes. Chelsea fans will remember Petr Cech’s brilliance in title-winning seasons. I’m not so sure he’ll be remembered so fondly at Arsenal. We caught him on the downward spiral; great saves mixed with some basic errors.

The same applies to the Colombian. We’ve struggled with goalkeepers since peak-Lehmann left. Now, hopefully, we have stepped in the right direction with Leno and a change in coaching.

From the two games of the tour so far, this layman thinks the German fits more with Emery’s ideas than Cech. He’s more vocal, with better distribution. That said, Cech won’t give up without a fight. He’s hit the gym this summer and it won’t be a surprise if his distribution improves as well. New coaching has a habit of coaxing these things out of players.

Standing Room Only

The question is then who is the first choice? That’s going to become clear this week, I think. Emery must field as close to his chosen starting XI for the opening game, as he can. I’d expect the line-up against Lazio at the weekend to give the biggest clues in that respect.

Not all the answers, however. This morning’s Times (again) reports FIFPro and FIFA, as well as the ECA, want a mandatory four-week holiday for players. None of this coming back early malarkey nor would clubs be allowed to pressurise them. The fudge is that there must be four weeks between the last game played in a season and the start of a new one.

The claim in the article is that players are breaching their contracts by returning early, but that doesn’t carry much weight; a club isn’t going to sack a player who ‘voluntarily’ ends his holiday early. Apparently, the standard PFA clause on holiday is players must be given five weeks per year, three of which are continuous.

Which begs the question why we always used to give players four weeks rest after a tournament? We were told it was a FIFA rule, but in reality, were the players just using up their holiday allowance? It’s in the past now.

Elsewhere, the government’s consultation on safe standing inched forward. Tracey Crouch, minister for sport, met Hillsborough Family Support Group and Spirit of Shankly to discuss. I understand that, as I do the opposition of the former to the concept. The latter is taking a poll of its’ members to decide their position.

The Judge Cannot Be The Jury As Well

The question I think comes down to how much weight those views carry? They shouldn’t be ignored or lumped into the melting pot, becoming lost in the morass. However, they cannot be the sole arbiters of the decision and in fairness, nor do I believe they want to be. Yet the media seems determined to push them into that role.

Evidence from Germany and Celtic Park suggest it works. Even in the lower divisions in England, there is terracing. It’s absurd for that to apply solely to the Championship or Premier League.

It isn’t a return to terracing in the same decrepit designs we had back in those days. The only notion of upgrading back then was to put new barriers in or an electric fence.

The point is that we’re not talking about making this compulsory. Not every club can accommodate a safe standing area and not every club will want them. Just because the law changes, doesn’t mean there will be a mad rush to reinstall terraces.

My guess is there will a pilot scheme at a well-supported club. I’d like Arsenal to participate, but I don’t think they will.

We’ll see how this all pans out.

’til Tomorrow.

 

22 thoughts on “One For All And All For One! Three Goalkeeping Musketeers Remain

  1. I expect that any participation by Arsenal would depend on the results of a £££ per square meter calculation less costs, nothing else. While I’d like to see safe standing I can’t see it happening.

  2. It’s still early days but I am expecting a significant improvement in our defensive performances over and above any upgrade on the goalkeeping front. Lee Dixon’s thoughts (below) seem again relevant if you view Emery as more of a Graham-type coach rather than a Wenger style manager:

    “People say, ‘Who is the best manager you ever played for?’ And I always go, ‘Best coach: George Graham.’ Without a shadow of a doubt. ‘Best man, i.e. manager to play for: Arsene.’ Because he just said to me, ‘Go and play.’

    “It was like playing a computer game, but I wouldn’t have liked it the other way around. If Arsene had have been my first manager at Arsenal, I don’t think I’d have been half the player, because George taught me everything I needed to know about being what I was.

    “If I’d have been under Arsene first I’d have been like Hector Bellerin is now.”

    Fingers crossed that Emery can not only ‘do a Graham’ with Bellerin and Mustafi but also create a unit that (like under Graham) was greater than the sum of its parts.

  3. Its Leno for me and its noy just down to the distribution but he seems to have given the defenders a sense of calm thus far. They feel comfortable playing back to him when they are in trouble, he is vocal and commands.

    Good luck to Macey cause he certainly has thr makings but lets see what happens when he gets the #1 shirt for a season. Ospina wasn’t bad as a #2 the problem for me was that Cech is on the downward spiral but was poor last season with shit distribution but Ospina wasn’t good enough to take the #1 from him.

  4. andy1886,

    With you there , Andy.

    Let’s hope there’s some defensive accountability under Emery , rather than the shoulder shrugging we’ve seen for a good while now.

  5. Yes, we have a new manager and let’s hope players thrive and improve under him.
    Let’s not forget the toxic atmosphere generated by a lot of so called Arsenal supporters that may have affected the players as well, especially in the second half of the season.

  6. Another good one Yogi

    Based on the number of goals Leno and Cech conceded the last couple seasons its clear they have both struggled. Suggesting that Leno was playing well and Cech was poor when they both conceded 95 goals in 2 years seems like we are altering history to tell us what we want to hear. I know with certainty that Cech played for a team with major defensive issues but I don’t know what Leno’s excuse was. In reality, Cech is probably more likely then any of the players on the team to have a revival with a new manager and hopefully a more organized defense. Its also far to early to make the call that Leno’s distribution will be superior. We have only watched him play for about 90 minutes and a new player always has a honeymoon period. Fans see what they hope to see. All of that said, I am confident that Emery would like Leno to take over so I would guess that he will get the majority of the benefit of the doubt at least at first. I am happy that we have an experienced player like Cech in the squad in case Leno struggles.

  7. Bil,

    Couple things mate, Leno’s distribution is far superior and that is by all accounts in the Bundesliga and from what I have seen over the years at Leverkusen. Also, Leverkusen defense struggled just like ours but Leno is still highly rates in Germany and highly thought of. He is vastly experienced but still on 26 years old which means he is literally just entering his GK’ing prime. Leno is way more suited to Emery’s style especially with the pressing and Leno being comfortable in that sweeper keeper role that he will have to play. He is quick off his line and very comfortable with the ball at his feet along with quick reflexes. The problem Leno faced is that he needed a change of scenery having been the undisputed #1 at Leverkusen since he made his debut at age 19.

  8. Under GG if one full-back pushed forward the other sat back and the defensive midfielder hardly ever ventured forward. That meant there were always 4 outfield players covering a counter attack. With Wenger 2.0 we often had 2 full-backs playing as wingers and no defensive midfielder, which meant 2 players facing a counter attack. Suicidal tactics.

    I’m looking forward to a bit more defensive solidity under Emery.

  9. Pete the Thirst,

    what was frustrating was this was the case for about 10 years….For the first half of that, we had the flair in Fabregas, Hleb, Ade, RVP and Narsi where teams where scared to fire forward because if they lost the ball then we’d likely score, on top of fast football it glazed over the defensive lapses as we tended to concede one but score 3/4. The latter half of that 10 years is marred by a complete lack of evolving tactics and trust in players who didn’t deserve it. Lose Fabregas and replace him with the immobile Arteta, Flamini our only defensive minded midfielder was lost to AC Milan and never replaced. Diary was awarded new contracts despite not playing for 20+ games a season, Ramsey came back but was inconsistent due to injuries, we lost Nasri and Ade to City, and realistically we took far to long to replace them, RVP was sold to United and we brought in Giroud, Podolski and Carzola, who couldn’t contribute the goals lost by selling RVP and from there, we gradually slowed our football down as they players weren’t as good so we had the ball for 70% of a game and did nothing with it but pass sideways and bizarrely, had fullbacks flying forward leaving two defenders which even smaller teams realised they could capsulate on.

    From what we’ve seen in preseason and training sessions, there is a distinct change in this. Pressing teams more instead of statically standing and bringing on pressure when we were weak defensively was suicide and teams like City and Liverpool destroyed us for it. Everyone knows our Achilles heel was flying forward and leaving defenders exposed, and it was never once addressed by Wenger, I can fully see his having said go out and express yourself to them and it resulted in a schoolboy style mentality where no one wanted to help defend everyone wanted to pass, but we didn’t even have the speed to attack most teams.

    Emry has a lot to change, minimum of 5th for me especially since Tottenham don’t seem to be strengthening. And a good run in the Europa league again! If we can get back to champs league, Emry will be able to attract more players in and spend more cash! Let’s get behind them, because I don’t see us beating city in first game and I can’t tell how Chelsea will look this season, Sarri hasn’t won anything….Emry has, so I’m hoping we can after the Chelsea game get some momentum and start getting some points on the board. The team on paper is good….I mean Aubameyang, Henrihk, Ozil, Lacazette, Xhaka, Torreira etc are all good players there’s no reason we can’t be competitive.

  10. MesutsLeftFoot,

    I think one of the biggest mistakes Wenger made was selling Gilberto. He was never replaced. Flamini left for Milan, Diarra was let move on. Song looked ok for a while until he became the king of assists and forgot where he was meant to play.

    We have a decent side this season. PEA could be top scorer in the league. If we start picking up points away from home we will be in the mix for top 4.

    It appears Spurs have money issues and Chelsea’s owner is losing interest. We should take advantage.

  11. C

    Over the years the stuff we hear in the media tends to be filtered towards what we want to hear and often not reality. The best recent example is the World Cup. We had been hearing how great Elneny had been and he was force driving Egypt and we heard how ozil was back to his best running the Germans. Before he came we heard about how good a defensive player xhaka was etc etc etc. I assume the same is true with Leno because the numbers of goals concede and the fact that Low dropped him from the German team suggest that his star has faded. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him turn his career arc back to upward.

  12. Bill,

    Always the pessimist and clearly still not reading my full posts but I will respond. I said he needs, along with many in Germany, a change of scenery due to being the undisputed #1 for so long. Honestly, there was more shock in Germany that he was dropped as opposed to Sane. Your pointing out a couple of examples but I will raise you a Torriera who was was said to be good but possibly not ready for the World Cup stage and he was brilliant for Uruguay and his introduction to the team was part of their fortunes and play being better.

    Its amazing how everything in your futboling universe always comes back to Ozil despite the fact that Germany as a whole and especially their finishing and defending were utter shit and thats being nice.

  13. C

    The number of goals Leverkusen conceded and Leno getting dropped from the German team are indisputable facts. I think most would agree that he was a heavily hyped player when he was younger and has not quite lived up to the hype. Perhaps a change of scenery will bring more out of him. It’s not being pessimistic if it’s accurate.

  14. Silly Sausage,

    I don’t know about toxic atmosphere – when you’re second on home form and eleventh on away form that suggests that fan pressure wasn’t a factor last season in how the team played. If however fan pressure helped remove the blight that was AW then I’d suggest it was a very positive one ultimately. Far from toxic there was less dissent last season than in the previous one, people simply became disillusioned rather than angry and stayed away. While I wouldn’t say that a new manager will fix everything about the relationship between some fans and the club I do expect that a lot of us will have a great deal more hope this season than we’ve had for a good number of years.

  15. Bill,

    Your talking as though he is in his prime and is some old GK, he just turned 26 years old and we ALL know that GK’s get better with age and if he wasn’t any good then he wouldn’t have been at Leverkusen that long as their #1. Getting dropped by your country doesn’t mean your a bad player or your form isn’t good. I mean Icardi is BY FAR one of the most lethal CF’s in the world and is a muvh better fit for Argentina and Messi but he can’t even make the squad. We all know that the German GK3 doesn’t matter because Low is fiercely loyal to Neuer and ter Stegen.

  16. C

    Every year you campaign for U21 players to be playing high leverage minutes and you love the idea that age is just a number. Then when the player struggles you say they were still young and still developing so it’s not their fault. Unfortunately for you professional Football is about getting results and If you want player like Leno or Wojo to be regulars then you can’t use the excuse they were to young and inexperienced. You can’t have it both ways.

  17. Bill,

    I do because age is just a number and I can have it both because they will perform at times but we also have to understand that they are young amd even like experienced players they can be inconsistent but unlile them they are still developing who they are and their best position. Leno is young but vastly experienced with 300plus Bundesliga matches. His problem recently has been concentration and knowing that he is Leverkusen’s first choice….complacency happens to all player no matter the level. I mean Ronaldo STRUGGLED BADLY the first half of the season, think he had something like 4 goals in La Liga up until mid December.

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