Having been demoted from first choice goalkeeper to number three in the blink of an eye, Manuel Almunia could easily have had a moan about his changed circumstances while on the books at Arsenal.
Instead, he kept his counsel, dabbled in a loan move to West Ham, saw out his contract and moved across the road to Watford in a deal devoid of fanfare and bitterness.He may not have been to everybody’s taste between the sticks, but he was at least professional.
Having been silent for so long it’s therefore interesting to hear what he has to say about his time at Arsenal and how he assesses the men who pushed past him in Arsene Wenger’s pecking order.
“It’s good to have a No 1 goalkeeper with the support of the coach, but at the same time the second choice has to be ready and has to be good,” he told The Times (Paywalled).
“All three have experience and ability so Arsenal should be happy. They’re all very similar. Szczesny is like me; tall, authoritative and good with his feet. (Arseblog News did chuckle a little at this point) Lukasz and Vito are more explosive and make more spectacular saves.”
While the Pole inherited the number one shirt from Almunia this summer, the elder statesman hinted that his successor, while a very good goalkeeper, still had some maturing to do off the pitch.
“Wojciech is a good goalkeeper too, but he needs to be more mature. Not on the pitch, where he’s good, but he needs to be more quiet and settled off the pitch. He should think twice before doing certain things. When you’re young you do things without thinking.”
Having been on the receiving end of Jens Lehmann’s teutonic temper on the training ground for six years, Almunia confirmed that he and the big German had finally buried the hatchet after a long-running feud.
“As everyone knows we had a difficult relationship for years, but Jens is a lovely person off the pitch.
“He didn’t hate me, but Jens is the kind of person who, when someone tries to take his place, he fights and fights and fights to recover it. He’s very competitive and I just got in the way.
“In his last season at Arsenal there was a team dinner for us all to say goodbye. Jens and me didn’t speak — and I mean never — but he came to me with his wife and showed me a totally different face. I thought, ‘oh my God, who is this? This is not Jens!’ We talked about life, football, Spain, Germany, everything.”
Finally, in a candid statement which might rile a few, the Spaniard also made no bones about the fact he would have left the Emirates earlier were it not for the lucrative terms of his contract.
“I went from being No 1 to No 3 almost overnight, but I tried not to think about it. Maybe I should have left one year earlier, but I had a contract that was too good to refuse.”