Arsenal sold their third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone to Sunderland in the summer for £2 million but with the imminent departure of Lukasz Fabianski and the impressive performance from the Italian this term for the Black Cats, should the Gunners have kept him on?
Mannone arrived at Arsenal in 2005 from Italian side Atalanta when he was aged just 17 and over the course of his eight years with the Gunners, he made just fifteen appearances in the Premier League.
The emergence of Wojceich Szczesny in many ways cancelled out the departure of Manuel Almunia – following Jens Lehmann’s departure in 2008, the young Pole and his elder compatriot Lukasz Fabianski became the contenders for the No.1 jersey ahead of Vito Mannone.
However, second-choice stopper Fabianski has announced his plans to leave the Emirates at the end of the season when his contract expires and, at present, Arsenal rely all too heavily on 23-year-old Szczesny – the loan signing of Emiliano Viviano in January suggests Arsene Wenger is considering long term options for the summer by which time it looks as though the French boss will require both a second and third choice goalkeeper.
Mannone could have been the guy to rival Szczesny had the North Londoners have kept him on – he has, however, only signed a two-year contract with the Black Cats meaning he enters the final year of his deal this summer. His performances for Sunderland have been excellent under difficult circumstances this term. He has managed to keep eight clean sheets and has conceded an average of 1.17 goals per league appearance.
Szczesny has kept 12 clean sheets which is the best record in the league and has averaged one goal conceded per game but, in the context of the gulf in quality between the two clubs, Mannone has been exceptional this season and, at 25 years of age now, he is entering the prime years of a goalkeeper’s career.
Arsenal also have 21-year-old Argentine prospect Damian Martinez coming through – he is currently on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and has yet to make a senior appearance for Arsenal but he is one to watch out for the future – however it cannot be denied Arsenal could use a player of Mannone’s quality, experience and age as a backup to Szczesny and, as things stand currently, I suspect they’ll have to spend more than £2 million this summer to bring in a replacement for Fabianski as well as a third-choice assuming they let Viviano’s loan spell end.
I think, if Arsenal haven't tied up their goalkeeper situation on a long-term basis by the time next January roles around, they would be foolish not to at least consider trying to convince Vito Mannone to come back a fight for a place between the sticks at the Emirates.
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