Did Wenger make a goalkeeping blunder last summer?

Vito Mannone 2

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made two under-the-radar deals regarding goalkeepers last summer, but were they both mistakes?

The Gunners weren't particularly active in the summer transfer window, until Wenger pulled off a monumental swoop for Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Ozil, forking out £42.5m for the German international. Former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini also returned to the club, whilst young striker Yaya Sanogo was brought in from Auxerre.

Yet, lost in all this, was that Wenger made a move to bring Palermo goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano on loan for the season. The Italian international had earned himself a strong reputation in Serie A, and Wenger brought the 28-year-old to North London in order to compete with first-choice stopper Wojciech Szczesny.

But the former Palermo stopper has had a torrid time in England, failing to even make a first-team appearance. It's a sign of just how much Viviano has struggled when he can't even displace flop Lukasz Fabianski as the second-choice goalkeeper under Wenger.

There are now rumours suggesting that Viviano could finish his spell at the Emirates Stadium early in order to return to Italy, with AC Milan and former club Bologna looking to take Viviano back to Italy, leaving Wenger with just Fabianski as his backup until the Pole inevitably leaves the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season, when his contract expires.

However, last summer, Wenger allowed Vito Mannone – another Italian goalkeeper to leave the club for around £2m, with fellow Premier League side Sunderland snapping him up. It was understandable for the 25-year-old to leave having made just 23 appearances for the Gunners since 2005, but his outstanding displays for the Black Cats have to raise a question – did Wenger put his faith in the wrong Italian shot-stopper?

Mannone's recent displays have attracted the interest of Manchester United, but it's becoming more and more apparent that the man Wenger signed from Atalanta in 2005 could've been the one to push Szczesny in the Arsenal goal, with neither Fabianski nor Viviano deemed as worthy competition for the #1 shirt at the moment. Mannone's stunning display in last week's Capital One Cup semi-final with United has catapulted his reputation once more, having starred in both normal time and in the penalty shoot out, where manager Gustavo Poyet praised his goalkeeper.

“As a player Vito had not been playing for a while, but he has been fantastic for us since arriving,” Poyet said. “The whole squad and staff started singing his name when he walked into the dressing room. He was half happy and half embarrassed because it was a special night for him.”

If Szczesny continues to develop, then the decision won't be as important, but it certainly seems that rather than sign Viviano, Wenger should have given Mannone the opportunity to challenge Szczesny for the starting role.

image: © wonker

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