Why Almunia is still No.1 choice for Wenger

Manuel Almunia proved he is good enough to keep Arsenal on track for honours this season with his performance against the team-that-dare-not-speak-its-name on Saturday.

Questions were asked earlier in the season about the Spaniard and one or two errors didn’t exactly provide the cornerstone of a defence for his suitability as the No.1. But Almunia gave an assured display at the Emirates in our customary triumph over whatever their team is called and showed his critics he does have the credentials to be Arsene Wenger’s first choice.
As we know, Vito Mannone came in and did a job against Fulham after Wenger revealed that Almunia had a chest infection. The real reason for his absence, it would seem, was the fact that his mother-in-law died in a car crash in Spain and he was given compassionate leave to comfort his wife.
Mannone went on to prove he wasn’t good enough week in week out, Lucasz Fabianski came in for the 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in the Carling Cup and then a thigh strain meant that once again Wenger called on Almunia.
In between, we witnessed Press speculation over new recruits with West Ham and England keeper Rob Green apparently a Wenger target and I was even told by one Arsenal punter that we were looking at former T******** keeper Paul Robinson from Blackburn! Please God no– the food bill at the club would double.
And so the annual north London mismatch came about. The time was right for Almunia to reclaim his spot. It was a big test for the keeper. Would his nerve hold? Could he cope with the sky-high threat of Peter Crouch? I think he proved his worth and will now establish himself as the first choice keeper for the remainder of the season.
He passed the test and I don’t think I am alone in thinking that the back four, indeed the entire team, seem more confident when he is between the sticks. Then there is also the understanding to take into consideration. The defence are used to playing with him and I especially noticed that his distribution to the full-backs, Bacary Sagna in particular, was superb.
He only really had dunce David Bentley’s free-kick to trouble him and probably made a meal of it with his dive but the point is he saved it and the corner came to nothing. So, he played in a team that won convincingly and he kept a clean sheet, albeit against a team of no-hopers without an ounce of spirit amongst them.
That will give Almunia lots of confidence going into the games coming up against AZ Alkmaar and Wolves and, of course, beyond.
I go with Almunia with cover from Fabianski when he is fit for the rest of the season.

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