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.