Who will be Arsenal’s number 2 next year?
In an ideal world, playing Football Manager on my lap top, I would have signed Jordan Pickford this summer.
The deal would have been easy. With Petr Cech coming to the end of his career, Pickford would have come in as Arsenal’s number two. With Arsenal in the Europa League, Pickford would have got all the cup games. League Cup and Europa League games in the first half of the year. Europa League and FA Cup in the second half.
This would amount to around 20 games depending on our progress in the 3 competitions. All a while giving Pickford the chance to train alongside a goal keeping legend, and Arsenal a close up opportunity to judge whether Pickford really is a future superstar.
After the 1st year, Cech would then be put down and Pickford, if he has shown he can deal with the extra scrutiny and expectations at a top club, would step up to be Arsenal’s number one for the next 10 years.
In joining Everton, Pickford has actually made a good decision. Rather than be a number two at Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea, he has joined a lesser team where he will go straight in as number one. With Joe Hart out of form and Jack Butland still not 100% after his long term injury, Pickford is giving himself the best outside chance to be England Number 1 at the World Cup in 2018.
At the very least, as long as he stays injury free, you would expect him to leap over Tom Heaton and Fraser Forster and be on the plane to Russia.
A couple of decent years for Everton, the top clubs will then be knocking on his door offering him the chance of the Number 1 jersey.
The price of £30m might be excessive, but Everton might have just signed their goal keeper for the next 10 years – that then works out at £3m a year. Or if he performs well and in 2 years joins Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea as their new number 1, you have to think they would be willing to pay £50m – especially considering the way transfer prices are inflating each year.
With Pickford off the table, this removes one potential option for a future understudy for Petr Cech.
Current number 2, David Ospina, is surely finally going to leave this summer? How long can a class keeper, and regular for his country, stay as number 2, playing a a dozen or so games a year?
It is clear Arsene Wenger does not think he is good enough to be number 1 in the Premier League, so he will surely be shipped out. Long term interest from Fenerbache might finally turn into a transfer.
We then have Wojciech Szczesny.
Many fans have looked at the stats and decided Szczesny was the best keeper in Italy last year, when he was on loan to Roma. They see Juventus looking to make a £14m offer for his services as the eventual replacement for Gianluigi Buffon. “If he is good enough to replace the greatest of all time, why is he not good enough for Arsenal” a friend asked me yesterday.
A valid question, and my response was reasonable. “He has had enough chances at Arsenal.”
Whilst Szczesny’s natural ability has never been in question, what is between his ears has been.
A tendency to lose concentration that led to mistakes that cost goals, and a few attitude issues, saw Szczesny lose his place in the Arsenal first team on more than one occasion. Things came to a head in January when Szczesny made errors leading to both goals in Arsenal’s 2–0 defeat at Southampton. His response was to go to the showers for a smoke, and he was dropped for the rest of the season.
Sent on loan to Italy, he has matured in the 2 years he has been at Roma, but old habits die hard. He was dropped in 2016 after once again being caught smoking following a 6-1 defeat to Barcelona. And whilst he often made match winning saves, the mistakes have not been eradicated from his game.
For me, if we still planned for him to be number 1, he should have been bought back from loan last season, number 2 for Arsenal in 2016/17 and then moved to 1st choice this season.
With a year left on his contract, Arsenal will do well to cash in on him.
That then leaves us with Emiliano Martinez.
The giant Argentinean looked OK in his very small handful of games this season. But has he really shown enough to be number 2 next season.
Let me switch the question around. If Petr Cech picked up a season long injury on 1st September 2017, would you be happy with Martinez coming in for the remainder of the season? Or until January 1st? The answer is probably no.
He might be a decent 3rd choice keeper. But he has simply not shown enough that he can be Cech’s back up. And with Arsenal also needing to search for a new first choice keeper over the next 12 months, Martinez is simply not good enough.
He would be worth keeping around for as long as he wants to be 3rd choice, but, like Vito Mannone before him, he will never be more than that at Arsenal.
That leaves Arsenal in an awkward situation. We need to go out and find a 2nd choice keeper who is happy being an understudy to Petr Cech. Happy with the Europa League games. But is good enough to replace Cech if he picks up an injury. In an ideal world, it would be someone under 25 who could then replace Cech in a years time.
When you look at the top 6’s current Number 2, you see the calibre of goal keeper we need to target (based on 2016/17):
Chelsea: Asmir Begovic
Tottenham: Michel Vorm
Manchester City: Willy Caballero
Liverpool: Loris Karius
Arsenal: David Ospina
Manchester United: Sergio Romero
Everton: Joel Robles
All 7 have been regular number for top flight sides in England, Spain, Germany or France. 4 of the 7 have played for their country, 3 of which have been their countries undisputed number 1 at some point in their career.
It will not be easy finding a number two.
Would the likes of Joe Hart, Fraser Forster or Jack Butland be happy putting their World Cup place at risk? Probably not. Maybe Arsenal could go another route and encourage the now-surplus-to-requirements Maarten Stekelenburg to finish his career as number 2 at Arsenal? Not one for the future but certainly good enough to deputise for Cech. Adrian at West Ham could be a similar senior option if they sign Joe Hart.
Could Arsenal make a move for AC Milan youngster Gianluigi Donnarumma? He certainly has the talent the be a future number one and at just 18 might be willing to spend a year behind Petr Cech to continue learning his trade. Although to go from AC Milan number 1 to arsenal number 2 might take some encouraging. With a year left on his current Milan deal, it is a move Arsenal could make.
Another young Italian is Simone Scuffet at Udinese. At 21 he is older than Donnarumma, but less experienced. Another who could be future number 1, but is he currently good enough to take over from Cech were Cech to get injured? Possibly not.
A final option (well not the final option, but the last name I am going to mention) is Germany’s Timo Horn. At 24 he has a big future ahead of him, and has already totted up over 150 games for Koln. At the 2016 Olympics, he was Germany’s starting goal keeper.
He has been compared in his career to Liverpool’s Loris Karius – who had a rough 1st year in the North-West. But he would be coming in for a year to play 2nd fiddle to Cech, rather than Karius who came in as number one
There are plenty of other options for Arsenal this summer, and it will be an interesting one to watch unfold and see what route Wenger takes us down.