Now arguably third-choice (or fourth choice!) goalkeeper at Arsenal after Szczęsny and Fabianski, Manuel Almunia has temporarily called time on his time at the Emirates with an emergency one month loan move across the capital to West Ham. Already boasting a trio of excellent young keepers, including the aforementioned Poles and Hull City’s loan star Vito Mannone, Arsène Wenger will not be shedding any tears over a long-serving but somewhat erratic goalkeeper.
In what was probably the highlight of his career so far, his Champions League Final cameo in 2006 against Barcelona gave him the perfect stage to impress but, despite making over a century of appearances for the club, one cannot truly say that he has made a tremendous impact. Still, fans must admire his self-belief and determination, happily offering to replace England’s often hapless goalkeepers after having stayed in the country long enough to be eligible for selection.
Unfortunately for him, though, this confidence wasn’t enough to ensure his permanent position between the sticks – with Szczęsny having now replaced the Spaniard – and this short-term deal does suggest that his time with the Arsenal is coming to a close. One might have assumed that being 34 years-old, Almunia would provide much-needed experience and guidance for the younger goalkeepers in the squad, but Wojciech Szczęsny’s maturity far beyond his years eradicates the need for what would usually be considered to be a valuable tool. All in all, Almunia is perhaps unfortunate to be completely surplus to requirements.
Whether he returns for good or not, he has certainly been patient with being in and out of use, willingly waiting for his chance. One would hope that he gets more fortune in terms of game opportunities elsewhere, which would undoubtedly suit him, the Arsenal and his future club down to the ground.