Almunia Interview: More Errors Of Judgement

Continuing to bring everyone up to date with what The Times are doing about Arsenal, here’s their feature on Manuel Almunia from October 1. No, wait! He’s not an Arsenal player anymore is he? Hard to tell when we hadn’t seen him for two years anyway. During that time, if he hadn’t been paid at all they could have knocked at least £2 off every ticket in the stadium for every match. That’s not actually Almunia’s fault, though for me it does leave a slight resentment.

Almunia is now plying his trade at Watford, who he joined on a free transfer. Yes, he could not be sold because his vast wage didn’t justify his talent, so no one else would match it; thus he sat around smiling until his contract finally came to an end. Repeat last sentence of previous paragraph.

The most interesting quotes from this piece have been widely disseminated already, including this one on Lehmann: “Jens and me didn’t speak – and I mean never – but he’s a lovely person off the pitch. He didn’t hate me.” How do you know he didn’t hate you if he never – and I mean never – spoke to you? Did he go round telling other people, “I don’t speak to Manuel, but I don’t hate him”?

On Fabianski: “A fantastic man. Maybe not at Arsenal, but he’ll play regularly in the Premier League.” I assume the ‘maybe not at Arsenal’ is related to the ‘playing regularly’ rather the ‘fantastic man’. Either way, I think Almunia’s judgement is off. I can’t see Fabianski making it as a regular Premier League keeper.

On Szczesny: “He needs to be more mature. He should think twice before doing certain things.” He should think once before doing certain things. But it turns out that Almunia is referring only to off-field activities, apparently Chezzer has no flaws on the pitch.

On Arsenal’s current three keepers as a group: “All three have experience and ability, so Arsenal should be happy.” Is he kidding? None of the current keepers is going to win us a title. His judgement really doesn’t seem to have improved.

Apparently Almunia’s biggest regret is that he didn’t leave Arsenal a year earlier. “Maybe I should have left a year earlier, but I had a contract that was too good to refuse.” Repeat last two sentences of first paragraph.

Back to Jens again: when he was brought back as a temporary measure Almunia “couldn’t find an explanation”. Hmm. The expression ‘elephant in the room’ springs to mind. But then it all turns to sunshine and rainbows, as apparently when Lehmann was leaving he suddenly turned into Almunia’s best mate! All the ignoring him for years was just a result of Mad Jens’s competitive nature! Hurrah!

We then finally learn that Almunia has put his money – I mean our money – into buying a farm and some thoroughbred horses in Spain to enjoy in his retirement. Oh good. So pleased to hear he hasn’t frittered it away.

Ultimately I’m annoyed by this whole piece (yes, I get annoyed easily, I know), as there is no critical judgement applied. I’d have had to go down the route of, “Yeah, but the thing is Manuel, you were a bit rubbish, weren’t you? You were never the class required to win trophies at a top club.” Let’s see what he would have said to that.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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11 thoughts on “Almunia Interview: More Errors Of Judgement

  1. A fantastic man. Maybe not at Arsenal, but he’ll play regularly in the Premier League.
    You are indeed a grumpy guy! The grammar tells you straight away that he was referring to the PL, not the fantastic man. There’s a full stop.

    On your more substantive point about Flappy, I tend to agree with you. I’d be happy with Casillas or Buffon :)

    • Yes, punctuation, I’ve heard of that. But the punctuation was put in by the journalist, and as we all know people who write things can’t be trusted. Maybe Almunia paused in a totally different place when he was actually saying it, and the journo was put off by the amount of bollocks being spouted.

      I think we’d all be happy with the keepers you mention, but they would cost a lot, and are getting on a bit anyway.

      Now for some reason I fancy an ice cream.

  2. A few questions and observations Phil and I hope you’ll resist the temptation to skeptically try and mock my input publicly in your blog:

    1) Exactly how much did Almunia earn in compensation (benefits) and salary over his time at AFC?
    2) He was all too often unreliable but had his great moments (especially against Barca at the Emirates as he kept us in the game for the first half)….so overall was he that bad? His stats at AFC show that he won almost as many games as Jens in the same amount of time (81 in 135 League and Cup matches) and tied more than Jens (36) so he wasn’t a total loss.
    3) Why do you think that his salary belongs to us? He had a contract and he was paid a salary….can I claim part of your salary because it is paid out of company or sales profits that consumers spent on product(s) your company sold?
    4) I share your frustration at his clown-like gaffs but objectively speaking he did his best and lived through a tough time with Jens, the fans and Wenger losing faith in him, Yet he never criticized AFC and was always ready to stand in if called….that’s more loyalty than we’ve seen recently. He had a sinecure at AFC in the last 2 years but so what, City and Chelsea between them had 20 players sitting on the bench ,earning vastly higher salaries than him and enjoying their paid holiday.

    • 1. I don’t know, but I’d guess off the top of my head £12m-£15m.
      2. I don’t think much of most stats in football (see several blog posts on the subject). I didn’t rate Jens as highly as many do. Neither of them were a patch on Seaman or even Lukic in my opinion.
      3. His salary belongs to fans in the sense that we funded it and he provided no service in return. He could have left. He knows he was overpaid. He chose to stay and keep cashing the cheques rather than play football elsewhere.
      4. Chelsea and Man City players are paid by billionaires, not by their fans.

      • I saw a number of websites that claim he was paid anywhere from 8M-12m/annum but none can back that figure up. Is this a justifiable figure if the keeper actually pulls his weight? Maybe its too little for the likes of Krul, Cech, DeGea and Hart, all who are highly rated keepers. Should a keeper be paid higher than a 30 goal scorer if he saves the team countless times?
        What’s your opinion of Szcesny, Mannone and Fabianski? I saw Seaman play a little and he was first class but most of my viewing was with Jens and then Almunia in nets.
        Can’t agree with you about only your ticket money paying his wages,unless you accept that the wages are funded from many other sources as well and that 107 wins or ties was providing no service in return. For awhile he had the highest number of shutouts at AFC, well ahead of Jens. Regardless of your opinion of Jens, he did perform very well in front of a team that on occasion looked less than convincing.
        The Chavs and City players are paid by their billionaires and the fans, along with other revenues that permit these Clubs to have the highest wage bills in the EPL as well as the biggest debt load. Almunia was always eager to play and ready in an instant if called on, one cannot say that of Tevez, Ireland, Santa Cruz and a few others, who publicly joked about earning vastly superior wages than Almunia but not being obliged to earn them by actually playing…..if I look at every Club in the EPL,. all of them are carrying players who rarely if ever get a game and yet are paid a regular salary to get a suntan….and Real is even worse. Why should Almunia be singled out as a rip-off artist when half the Real team and quite a few Barca stars are in exactly the same boat?

      • How can he possibly have been on £8m a year? That’s £150k a week.
        A keeper should be paid more if he’s one of the best in his position. If you’re comparing him to a 30-goal a year striker, they are rare.
        I didn’t say only ticket money paid wages, I said for Arsenal wages are funded by fans.
        You keep referring to pointless stats. A clean sheet is the job of the whole team.
        I’m only ‘singling out’ Almunia because a) he played for Arsenal and that’s what I’m interested in and b) he has come out and said, ‘Well I could have gone elsewhere and played, but I refused all offers because no one would match my current wage and I’d rather sit on my arse for 2 years’. Even Emmanuel Adebayor has eventually settled for lower wages, not to mention he has a charitable foundation to fund. As far as anyone has said Almunia is just funding his own lavish lifestyle.

      • Every statistic is pointless to you Phil, IF it doesn’t support your viewpoint! But since noone knows for sure what Almunia was earning, it is all a moot point to debate about his wages.
        As far as being paid more if he is the best in his position, it seems the Arsenal wage structure, of which so many supporters have complained about as being too rigid and all too often overcompensating the ¨deadwood¨ while neglecting the ¨stars¨, does NOT accommodate differentiation based on performance alone but rather , according to Wenger, is designed to offer a certain wage ¨democracy¨ where noone ‘s salary exceeds their team-mates by an enormous gap. I agree that a better performer should be compensated accordingly however I can’t state for sure that this is or isn’t a practice current at AFC.
        A clean sheet is indeed a team effort BUT I have seen the reverse countless times, AFC or other teams playing perfectly all afternoon only to drop points by goalkeeper error(s) and I have seen our keepers save the day in both Cup and League matches by making that crucial save that ONLY they could be credited for, despite the best efforts of the defense to block the shot. … so it isn’t as simple as you make it, nor as black and white.
        Maybe Almunia is a selfish profiteer, maybe he’s just a guy who has been encouraged by his agent to look for better offers than have been submitted….afterall he has eventually ended up well below the standards of the EPL he knew….and I certainly agree that it took way too long to get him off our books but it all evens out in the end, and since we seem to be making tons of money selling our players each year, as long as we can end up making a profit and still remaining competitive, as we do each season….maybe that’s part and parcel of competing in a rich-man’s top 4?

      • Most statistics in football are useless, but are used by people to support their viewpoints. I’m not using them to support my view, because I’m saying that doesn’t work and they don’t usually prove anything. Unless it’s something simple like Arsenal have won the league 13 times and Spurs twice, therefore Arsenal are on average better. That’s fairly clear. A goalkeeper keeping clean sheets is only useful to know if he always keeps clean sheets and it makes no difference who is in front of him, who the opposition are or anything else. It’s pointless to compare Almunia and Lehmann’s clean sheets record without knowing everything else that went on in every game. And yes, keepers make saves that allow games to be won, or not lost, but every player on the pitch takes actions that affect the result too. You are deluded if you think any single action is more important than any other.
        Almunia only left when his contract ended. He has ended up playing a lower standard for a tenth of the wages because that’s how good he is. He wasn’t waiting for better offers because he knew there wouldn’t be any.

      • Statistics are one aspect of a complex process in determining the real potential and value of a player to his team. to brush off most statistics as useless, is to say the least,shortsighted. Your argument about shutouts only being important if the keeper always keeps clean sheets is curious. The true measure of a keeper is his games won, tied and lost and the key moments where he may have prevented a loss by his exceptional play, as well as his ability to play team Football and his ability to pull off the big saves when all seems lost. In this respect Casillas and Hart seem to be in a class of their own, then Buffone and Cech.
        I never claimed that any single action is more important than any other, as I mentioned above, it is a complex and intertwined series of actions and interventions that determine the value of a keeper.
        I don’t know why Almunia left at the time he did and whether he is earning a tenth or half or a quarter of his AFC wages or whether he did get offers that were good but didn’t suit him….only he and his agent know that information….so all else is speculation. I saw his original interview in Spanish and it was not quite what everyone believed, he was rather less strident about AFC and far more frank than many claim.

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