After an uncertain start to the season and a protracted absence due to a prolonged chest infection, which many saw as an ‘injury` of convenience, Manuel Almunia has struggled to convince many supporters that he is good enough to be the clubs goal custodian. He will have been encouraged to receive the support of Arsene Wenger who has announced today on the club web site, that he has full confidence in the Spanish keeper and will select him for the game against Burnley tonight.
Such is the level of scrutiny that Almunia is under, far more than Fabianski or rookie Mannone who kept goal recently, that any perceived misjudgement is seen as evidence of Almunia`s inadequacy. He was commonly considered at fault for the goal conceded at Anfield at the weekend but this view is not apparently shared by the Arsenal manager:
“I have watched the game against Liverpool well,” said Arsene.
“The ball was deflected by Lucas and I did not see that during that game.
“Almunia came and Lucas touched the ball with his head and deflected the ball.
“I have full confidence in him and I will pick him tomorrow night.”
Having reached a level of grudging acceptance though never full endorsement from some supporters after decent performances since the departure of the erratic, sometimes bizarrely costly but very popular Jens Lehmann, Manuel`s unconvincing start to the season has heightened demands for someone with a greater keeping pedigree. Earlier this month Almunia admitted that things hadn`t gone well for him this season:
“Since coming back I have been feeling good,” he explained in a recent matchday programme.
“I didn’t feel so well at the start of the season, and I had some bad things around me. As a result I didn’t start the season so well.
“But I feel well now back on the pitch and I’m feeling 100 per cent in my mind and body. I have sorted everything out in my body and my life, and I’m ready to help my team-mates.
“It was very hard. Sometimes during your career you don’t feel at your best. But with good training, good help, and being professional I was sure I would come back.
“People around me, my wife, everyone was very supportive. Everybody has bad moments, and that was a bad period for me, but it’s in the past now.”
Those ‘things` around him included the tragic bereavement of a family member at a time when, whether real or not, he was still recovering from his chest infection. Manuel Almunia will never be a popular keeper amongst the majority of supporters, his lack of any genuine CV ensures that, but if he can recover a good part of the form that he had shown at times over the last couple of seasons the team, and those like Fabianski waiting behind him, will benefit greatly from it.
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