It’s fair to say that Manuel Almunia is a somewhat divisive figure; the 35 year-old never really enjoying the best of times at former club Arsenal, despite being number one for three seasons in North London.
In order to get a better, more accurate perspective of the Hornet’s new ‘keeper, we got hold of Vital Arsenal editor, Rocky7, the get the lowdown on the Pamplona-born stopper.
High-profile blunders aside, is there a good ‘keeper in there somewhere?
I think so. He’s definitely solid enough, it’s just when you’re playing for a team who ‘try’ to challenge for trophies, it’s difficult to maintain a place in the team. You have to be a bit more consistent and a little overt confidence doesn’t do any harm either.
So why did Almunia make such high-profile errors on a regular basis?
Honestly, the only reason his mistakes were high profile was because he was playing for Arsenal. He makes the same mistakes most other ‘keepers make it’s just there’s more of a spotlight on him and he’s judged a little more harshly.
That said, I don’t think it was his mistakes that made him unable to succeed in N5, it was his reactions to those mistakes. His confidence always seemed so frail that one error would seem to breed a few more. In stark confidence, our current keeper,Wojciech Szczesny, made an error in the last seconds in the last seconds of the Carling Cup Final that cost us a trophy (and a chance to get the media off our backs with the latest stats of how long it’s been since we won a trophy) and I believe he’d wiped it from his mind the next time he took to the field. That’s the mark of a great keeper.
What are his strengths?
He’s a very, very good shot stopper. Good reactions and excellent at saving penalties. He’s usually got pretty strong hands and can push the ball to safety.
What are his weaknesses?
His two main weaknesses for me are his previously mentioned fragile confidence, and his unwillingness to come from his line, he’s like a sloth in that situation, don’t expect him to come rushing from the goal to make a clearance 25 yards out!
Will being out of the limelight at Watford help Almunia re-build his reputation?
Yes, I think so. Arsenal fans can be very harsh on our players, it can be difficult to build and maintain confidence. If you can treat him like a puppy and rub his belly when he looks sad I’m sure he’ll serve you well in his time at Watford.
To my mind at least, it sounds like we`ve acquired someone not dissimilar to our former number one, Scott Loach. If Almunia makes a mistake early in his Hornet`s career, his success or failure in WD18 could very much lie with the reaction of the supporters who helped to force Loach out of the door.