Monday, October 8, 2007

Almunia vs. Lehmann: Round Two

In a previous article I argued that Jens Lehmann should be Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper. Other than his early blunders this season Lehmann has always been a sound 'keeper for Arsenal, and two errors are not enough to forget about a man who has spent four years with our club. When I polled the readers of this blog, however, the results differed from my beliefs - 58% of readers claimed that Manuel Almunia was the better keeper.

Nonetheless, with Lehmann on the verge of a return from injury, I maintain that the German hothead should be Arsene Wenger's number one. Almunia is a great backup, and he has produced some good performances in Lehmanns absence, even holding clean sheets for 5 consecutive games prior to last Sunday's clash with newly promoted Sunderland.

However, a clean sheet does not verify the skills of a goalkeeper. Our defending has been very solid this season, and many of the teams we played against were admittedly wasteful with their chances. The truth of the matter is, Almunia has not been forced to make many saves - and he has not made any saves of the caliber of a world-class keeper like Crazy Jens.

In fact, Sunderland's second goal was very stoppable, and in my match review I even mentioned that I thought Lehmann would have made the save. Our defense was partially at fault for letting up the pressure on Kenwyne Jones, but I still feel that Almunia should have at least gotten fingers to Jones' header.

Not only does Jens have the better reactions, but the German is also more experienced and is better at dealing with crosses and long balls. While he may be a bit volatile, Lehmann is by far the oldest and most experienced player on a young Arsenal team which needs a backbone. Also, whereas Almunia is often seen completely missing punches, Arsenal fans could always feel assured when Lehmann went up for a ball in the box.

As the best of Arsenal's keepers, Jens Lehmann deserves the starting berth against Bolton after the international break. At the very least, doubters should watch to see how he plays for Germany over the weekend before shastily tossing him out in favor of Almunia.

Whomever is chosen to play against Bolton, they better play well, as rumors state that Arsene Wenger is looking into buying Robert Green or Almenning Jarsteina in January.