Shay Given Shows He’s Not Got Enough For Arsenal

I feel this season we have seen unprecedented complaints against our keepers. All three of them have come under scrutiny and have received widespread criticism. As regular readers will have noticed, I have defended our keepers time and again. The point I always made was that anyone who comes under that kind of pressure and who plays in a team with overall defending issues will make mistakes. No matter who we buy, the keeper cannot and will not work magic for Arsenal.

Many of the critics in the media and the blogosphere have this ill conceived notion that buying someone like Shay Given would have solved all our problems. I like Given as a goalkeeper but I don’t see him as our savior.

Over the last couple of weeks Man City have played Stoke thrice. It is worth observing Given’s performances in these games. At this point I will confess that I haven’t seen any of these games live but the highlights do have a story of their own.

The first game was an FA Cup home tie that City should have won comfortably. I’m not saying this based on the match but on the fact that they have spent millions and have Shay Given. After all, those are the great solutions some expert Arsenal fans have put forward. You can see the highlights on this link.

City were on their way to the next round thanks to some sloppy work by Sorenson (another one we should have bought) and Shawcross. But just before the hour mark Given brought Stoke back into the game. Around two and half minutes into the highlights you can see Fuller’s goal from a Delap throw. Given was half way in his six yard box when the throw was taken and inexplicably went backwards to the goal line instead of coming for the ball. Reminds you of Almunia, Fabianksi, Mannone?

The next game between the teams was a league tie at the Brittania. This game also ended in a stalemate and Given cost City two points. On this link you can see the Whelan goal. It reminds me of Fabianski’s error against Porto, only the angle was different.

Finally, in the FA Cup replay, City were dumped out in extra time. Taking the advice of some arsenal fans, City owners have spent millions and even changed managers but it’s not taken them anywhere.

Anyway, on this link you can see the highlights from that game. Around the tenth minute in this video, Delap fires in a throw and Given comes for it this time but flaps at thin air. Shawcross heads it home. Once again reminding us he is no better than Almunia, et al.

Interestingly, just before the throw is taken the commentator says, “…chaos has ensued almost every time he has flung it in.” Not words you expect to hear when in the goal there is a superman goalkeeper who is supposed to solve all our problems, are they?!

While we are on the subject of Given, this is the link for one of the most famous bloopers of all time. Apologies for the quality. Just goes to show that young keepers can make mistakes and it’s stupid to discard them based on those.

If I apply the same yardstick as the critics of our keepers do then in just a couple of weeks, Given has forced his team into an FA cup replay, lost two points in the league and then got the team dumped out of the FA Cup. Food for thought, if thinking is your thing!

I am not trying to say that Given is a bad keeper and our keepers are fantastic. It’s important to have the right perspective when analyzing a football game. Arsene was right when he said goalkeeper was the toughest position. Every mistake is a catastrophe. But the solution is never as simple as buying a new one!

34 Responses to Shay Given Shows He’s Not Got Enough For Arsenal

  1. afc_fan says:

    We need BETTER than what we currently have if we’re serious about our ambitions. It’s a pressure position but so is every other when the stakes are this high. Fabianski has shown that he can be a good shot-stopper but more importantly than that he’s shown that he lacks mental concentration/focus on the big stage. That’s more forgivable in the Carling Cup or FA Cup but KNOWING you’re out of these and reliant heavily on the Champions League for honors is a COMPLETELY different game. Fabianski has slipped down the pecking order.
    Almunia has shown similar setbacks but not as bad as Fabianski’s recent blunders. On crosses Almunia is pretty suspect as well. No keeper is perfect but stable consistent keepers will keep you in the hunt and build a confident defensive unit. In comparison, Cech and van der Sar make mistakes as well but I’d prefer either of them over Almunia right now.
    Bottom line, we could use a stronger keeper.

    • desigunner says:

      The point is there is no real evidence with the fans that says any other keeper is better or would do better in our team.

      This post shows Given isn’t far better. Cech has made more mistakes than Almunia this season and Van der Saar hasn’t played that much.

      What a lot of fans fail to see is that in Chelsea and United the defenders/midfielders deal with crosses and corners a lot more than the keepers. At Arsenal defenders/midfielders struggle with that. Put any keeper in this situation and he will struggle.

      Bottomline is our defense has fundamental problems which cannot be addressed by buying a keeper.

  2. Steve Biko says:

    Okay fair enough you do make some valid points but I think you are overlooking something. While it may be argued that Shay Given may have lost some form (or more likely that he struggles against teams like stoke)you ignore the convenient fact that Given has been brilliant for most of the season and helped City pick crucial points along the way. Wenger should have bought a decent keeper but he chose not to do so and that has not helped the team. One guy made an interesting point that while we pride ourselves as one of the big four our first choice keeper is the only one among the big four who doesent play for his country! Think of this Van Der Sar has been the Netherland’s number 1, Peter cech is the Czech republic number 1 and Pepe Reina is Spain’s number 2.
    What lack of ambition leads us not to buy a decent stopper? Finally brother I think you come across like Wenger. In other words highlighting the recent mistakes of Shay Given while necessary is not sufficient ground for making the different point that Given would not have been important for us! It is almost like justifying an inaction by poiting to something else different. Shay Given most likely would have saved a few points for us along the way and our league standing may have been better.

    • desigunner says:

      The playing for country point is ridiculous. Last year Almunia was better than any English goalkeeper and should have played for England but Capello made a decision based on his country of birth (which is fair).

      By that logic even Cesc isn’t guaranteed a starting role in Spain, that doesn’t stop him from being the best midfielder in the League. Similalry, Bendtner is the Danish Player of the Year, so is he the answer to all our striker issues?

      I would reiterate that Given is a very good goalkeeper. But there is no guarantee that he can handle things any better than Almunia. Most people work on the assumption that you take him out of a strong physical defense and put him in Arsenal and he will succeed. I have a problem with that assumption.

      Most of the times Given has played in a team that has had strong physical defense and not a technical defense that plays a high line and cannot win headers. As Given has struggled against Delap, it just shows that he could easily have similar problems at Arsenal on a more regular basis because the Arsenal keeper has to do a lot more on set pieces.

  3. WC says:

    This articles is selective and bias. I could as well link a bunch of highlight clips from Shay Given from his time at Newcastle that makes him look world class and we’ll be having a different discussion.

    Over Given’s career he’s been better, far better. Almunia plays for a CL club who has gone on to some of the furthest stages of the competition in the past 5 years or so and he can’t make him national team’s bench. Real Madrid hasn’t done anything significant in European competition in half a decade but Casillas is just blatantly better. I don’t think Del Bosque is an idiot so he can see that Almunia isn’t even better than Diego Lopez – a keeper whose team isn’t even in Europa Cup.

    Given has shown over the period of his career that he’s better than what we have by miles. I could argue he single handedly kept Newcastle in the EPL for at least 2 seasons. Anecdotal evidence is a terrible way to show someone’s flaws. Almunia has been terrible at collecting crosses for years – it’s not a recent development. He’s a good shot stopper but how often does that really happen compared to having to command the box from open play? He also panics when he has to distribute the ball. How often has he just kicked the ball way out of play and given away a free throw. He looks uncomfortable with the ball at his feet more often than not. Given’s career has spawned far more acclamations than Almunia. Given is not an option now obviously but there’s better out there and it’s always been my philosophy that any top European club should have an international quality keeper.

    • desigunner says:

      You’ve completely missed the point.

      When people like you claim that “Almunia has been terrible at collecting crosses for years” it’s nothing more than an ill informed opinion and that is what this article is trying to show. If you have any facts to back it up please present them.

      The theory that Almunia hasn’t made the national team so he isn’t good enough is stretching the limits of stupidity. Almunia was last year considered to be good enough for England by many. Capello didn’t pick him because of his nationality and not because of talent. He was far better than the likes of Green, James and other English goalkeepers.

      I can give you enough examples of how the likes of Given, Cech, etc have failed in big moments. Keepers playing for smaller teams make a ton of saves that does not make them better than others. It’s just a lot of shot stopping, something our keepers have done fairly well.

      The real problem is Arsenal leave the goal keeper exposed and the defense does not do enough to deal with crosses, counter attacks and so on.

      The point of this article is not that Given is worse than Almunia but that he would struggle just as much when playing for Arsenal. There is no evidence to the contrary other than opinions of fans and pundits.

      • WC says:

        desi you couldn’t be more wrong.

        Almunia was being “considered” for England because England doesn’t have any good keepers. Their best keeper is a 40 year old who plays for a club that’s about to be relegated and go into administration – that’s how terrible their current crop are.

        Ben Foster? Not good enough according to Fergie otherwise he wouldn’t be sucking bench and only seeing cup duty. Kirkland? Had potential at one time but he’s just gone down to another club who is fighting relegation. Hart? He looks good this season but he’s still not starting for his actual club, Man city might even just sell him to Birmingham. You name me an England goalie who is even playing in the CL this season or hell even in Europa Cup – none. Even Green who is their next best hope is on a team that looks like their facing the plunge. When that is your goalie situation, then Almunia sure looks good on paper.

        All keepers/players make mistakes or go into dips in form – it’s natural for even the best so you tried admirably but failed to show why one of the top clubs in the world have a keeper who isn’t even 5th string for his country. If Wenger didn’t pick Almunia out of obscurity from Celta Vigo he’d be another nobody goalie probably in Segunda Liga or at best the middle to bottom half of the La Liga.

        It’s not just opinion or punditry that we could use a better keeper. Would Given find it hard to keep with Arsenal’s high line? Who knows – maybe, maybe not. I assure you though that Given would organize his defenses better and he’d be much better at communicating. I’ve watched enough of Newcastle to know he can organize a bunch of hack defenders to look at least competent and pick up their slack.

        I think you’re blind or in denial if you refuse to believe that Almunia has a problem collecting crosses. It’s come to be an announcer’s cliche to say Almunia flapped at a cross. This is evident by his tendency to punch rather than catch. A confident goalie has no problems coming out and launching through bodies to catch the ball, not struggle over their backs to get a fist on it. Punching is a gamble that it goes out of play or to one of your players. Catching guarantees that your team has ball possession.

        I honestly feel bad for Given, twice now he’s been at 2 clubs and twice they’ve stuck him with porous defense. The Toure/Lescott experiment is sure working out well for Man City isn’t it. If Dunne was still marshalling that City defense this article wouldn’t even exist.

      • desigunner says:

        Firstly, Thanks for putting across your points in a structured and thought out manner in stead of a rant. Appreciate it a lot.

        With England you show that sometimes a country might not have the right talent. In contrast, there is always a chance that a country might have abundance.

        Spain are having a golden period at the moment and so a player not making to the Spain side is not necessarily bad. Even Cesc wasn’t a regular till recently and even now he sits on the bench at times. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be starting for us or not be the best in the league, does it?!

        Is Victor Valdes Spain’s number 1? Number 2? After that does it even matter?

        Almunia has made a number of mistakes. I don’t deny that. But I also feel he is being victimized and that increases the pressure a lot. Did the press criticize Given for his recent errors as much as they did with Almunia? Unfortunately, even some Arsenal fans join in and then the whole atmosphere is negative. It has to have an effect on the players.

        No one can say for sure how good Given would have been for us. Maybe he would have been brilliant. But the way I see our defenders shying away from headers, not clearing the balls from danger areas, not blocking enough crosses and so on, I do wonder if any keeper can keep up the consistency when constantly under pressure.

        If we had the numbers for how often the keeper has to come and punch/catch we would know better. At the big teams, the defenders and midfielders deal with the crosses and corners on most occasions. Most of the crosses are blocked by the first man. At Arsenal no one does that and the keeper is under pressure all the time.

        I think Almunia has shown great mental strength to come back with some good performances in the last few games. I am hoping he will get some decent support and will do well for the rest of the season.

  4. ozed says:

    Great article Desi.but you know,—grass across the road always looks greener.

  5. el pipita says:

    its sad 2 c da given flops based on his reputation, but on any day ud be sure of him 2 carry his team more than our 3, Shocking ! How many times have u cn him do that dis season 4 mshitty ?

  6. Debbos says:

    just had enough energy to read through the first few para and after doing so i have got this piece of information for you.
    “You are a fool to compare given with our makeshift idiots”

    given, reina, van der saar are keepers that giev s you 10 points though the season and not in one game against a stupid stoke side who are just going throug a good patch.

    not usre if you watched the europa league match between ajax and Juve. the ajax keeper looked that much better, just to counter your point that there are x number of better options available in the market then what we hav got and many of them would jump at the prospect of regular CL and the fact that they play for a power house like arsnal. its a different story that wenger haven’t yet addressed it may be just because he thinks the kid out on loan in league 1 is the real prospect but then he did try signing a keeper on the last day of the market only to fail. he will bring in a new keeper in the summer unless calamity-Munia starts playing out of his pants!!

    n as i sign off, wonder if you had been watching football when given used to ply his trade for newcastle. he was the best in the league. dont compare his performance in a match, its the overall contribution in a season that matters and i know how much Fabiansky and almunia has cost us already and also last season for that matte. cant still get over the FA cup semis horror show against the chavs!!

    • desigunner says:

      You don’t know the difference between three games and one game, are you sure you can count till 10?

      Funnily enough, you assume I am judging Given on one game and don’t want me to do that but then you want me to judge the Ajax keeper on one game?! Do you even understand the point you are trying to counter?

      The number of assumptions you have made in so few words is astounding. I used to wonder who could be dumb enough to actually get brainwashed by the media. Now I know one.

  7. Hong_gunner says:

    Nice article, but i only partly agree with it. Where we’ve agreed is that a poor defensive back-bone doesnt help a keeper on any fronts. While i agree Given wouldn’t have stopped any of the goals chelsea scored against us, but he would have definitely saved us 5 points at a minimum as the season has gone. I dont like to judge a keeper on the howlers they conceed. But to command your back-line and make them cohesive is a part of youth-academy learning for the young keepers. That is where almunia fails miserably. And as they say, a game of football is 40% about confidence. Its obvious that defenders loose a little faith psychologically when they see crosses being fumbled out, easy long balls being punched into the defensive third when they need to be collected with ease. And Given is better than almunia, without being bias. But having said that, Wenger has never been popular with the keeping department he brings in. All we need is almunia to get his confidence back in the defensive players and communicate more.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with you about confidence. Although I could argue that the keeper loses confidence because the defenders are not blocking the crosses or dealing with corners. It’s a chicken and egg thing.

      I am not too sure about the commanding the box theory. I don’t think any keeper can organize a guy like Gallas. Try and translate it into actions, what does commanding your box and organizing the back four mean? Does it mean shouting at defenders and telling there where to go? Don’t the defenders learn that in youth academy?

      I’d say Given looks better in the team he is in than Almunia does in his team. Would it be different if the roles were reversed? We don’t know for sure.

  8. goonerdev says:

    Admittedly I am Irish but that perhaps gives me licence to speak about Given’s quality over the last 10years. He is what Seaman was to us in an Arsenal shirt in his prime. Organized, calm, inspiring confidence and combined with his defence worth 10-15 points a season.
    I think Almunia is competent but will never gain us points at the same rate as top class keepers in their prime. He is far more secure though than Fabianski and Mannone and well ahead in that pecking order. What worries me more is what we have to back up Almunia and that does not inspire confidence.

    Goalkeepers inspire defences too. Look at Van Der Saar at Manure. I think the jury’s out a little as to whether he is passed his prime a little but United struggled big time when he was absent this season (okay so were a lot of their defence) and in previous campaigns he has been excellent.
    There are not many top class keepers around though that we can pick up at this stage so if we were to buy some players I think we could focus in other departments or indeed buy an experienced backup keeper to Almunia.

    • desigunner says:

      In a recent game I saw Almunia and Gallas share a fist bump. Maybe they are getting their act together. I think the keeper and defense have to work together with a clear understanding of who does what. That has been missing at Arsenal to some extent. That’s also the reason I am not confident a new keeper guarantees any change.

      Btw, I do think Van der Saar cost United the champions league final when he conceded from a toe poke at the near post so early in the game. I don’t know how many points he won them last season but he sure lost a big trophy.

  9. Shawn says:

    I’m a huge fan of Shay Given, Brad Friedal, Van der Sar and David James. Yes they do fumble at times and get alot of stick sometimes esp James. I’ve watched games where u’d think, ok, its a certain goal, and u’re already screaming Goalll!!, but the keeper pulls out an incredible save. These are some of those keepers. A definite confidence boost and belief shot right into the defenders and also every other teammate. The opposition strikers esp feeling the direct opposite! What makes them apart as an icon in football and EPL is their consistency over so many seasons and the ability to organize and boost their defenders confidence. Almunia and co. i feel does not have this presence. I often see our defenders hanging their heads down after conceding certain goals, caught in two minds, wondering if they could have done better or should the keeper. This is certainly not a confidence boost for either party and it will continue to spiral down in this manner(although i certainly hope not!) as they lose their confidence when in comes to communication, understanding and belief in each other. This is why i hope we sign an experienced keeper, even David James for a year or two, who has such a presence, until we find a good replacement and please not another 18yr old GK.

    • desigunner says:

      You make a good point about the keeper having a presence.

      However, the point you make about pulling off good saves when one sees a certain goal has more to do with shot stopping. That is considered to be one of the top qualities of our keepers. I think Arsenal don’t concede too many chances and so the keeper doesn’t have to pull off too many big saves. In that sense Almunia did well against Babel and in three one-on-ones against Sunderland. He’s done so in the past as well.

      I do agree that it is a confidence issue but is it down to the defenders having so many weaknesses like not heading the ball out, not blocking crosses etc or is it down to the keeper? If the problem is with the defense then how will a new keeper help?

  10. Ole Gunner says:

    English football is an echo chamber. At some point, the official line comes out of pundit headquarters, and too many don’t verify.

    Shay Given is a brilliant shot stopper who makes many many mistakes.

    I have seen many games in which he made 4 brilliant saves, and then 2 howlers which eventually cost his team the game.

    People forget that Given has always conceded many more goals every single season than Almunia, including now that’s he’s playing behind of a £60M back 4.

    The defects to his game are plain to see. 1. He is poor on crosses, and doesn’t command his 6 yard box, and 2. He doesn’t organise his defence….he doesn’t understand defensive tactics.

    Almunia is a better keeper than Shay Given. Not that it’s much of an endorsement of Almunia to say that.

  11. Shawn says:

    I have my doubts of Almunia being a good shot stopper though. He concedes too many near post goals and i don’t have much faith in him when it comes to 1 on 1 situations. He should at least have spread his hands for the Drogba goal although it was smashed with great power but he just stood there n mayb even closed his eyes, What i’m trying to say is that he should at least try with some instinct, and also make a dive when in comes to free kicks rather than just stand there rooted. Its embarrassing.

    I don’t particularly think that the defenders are poor from crosses or corner kicks. I mean besides Gallas, Vermalen, Diaby and Song, the rest of the squad is too short to make any attempt to win the header, except Song who plays with his heart.

  12. george says:

    Desi,you are to smart for your own good mate.You can lead a horse to water……ect.your standard clown just wants a scape goat at the moment its big Al.last year Song ect.ect.You cant win pal .but every credit for trying

  13. BOOZY says:


  14. Nischit says:

    Hmmm, I get the point you’re trying to make i.e it isn’t as simple as buying a new player, but seriously desi, Almunia has had just one good season. He doesn’t really inspire confidence in me, as he has time and again screwed up in the matches that are the most important. I remember his first run in the Arsenal team, and his goof ups that let Man utd beat arsenal 4-2 at highbury. Ever since then, his only heroic act that comes readily to mind, is his penalty save against spurs. While I agree that shay given may not solve our problems, he was available for a decent price and he is one goalkeeper out there who i think could actually put in better performances. All goalkeepers tend to make mistakes, especially with those throw-ins of delap. I remember Almunia constantly flapping for EVERY throw-in in our loss at the brittania last season. Anyway, I just hope whoever plays in goal tomo makes the right decisions. This is possible our hardest game remaining

    • desigunner says:

      That’s the reason why I wrote the comment from the commentator. I didn’t see the game but I’m guessing even Given struggled with all throws.

  15. Nischit says:

    On a more important note, read this heart warming article and be proud to support a club like Arsenal that has a manager like Arsene Wenger.

  16. 8 inch knob says:

    Fuck Almunia. Hope he breaks both his arms.
    Sell Fabianski. I don’t think anyone would trust him anymore.

    Szczęsny for No.1 next season
    Mannone as No.2.

  17. Hong_gunner says:

    @desigunner – we’d never know for sure. Neither am i a fan of ‘what ifs’. You’ve got to manage with what you’ve got. Wenger will prove it if he does the premiership this season. Furgeson has been doing at man utd. But look at the games left on paper. Wenger must be watching that and thinking may be 28 out of remaining 33 points may take the league. And im praying no more injuries. Such has been the season.
    And yea, i guess the defenders are taught that too, but when they train together, keepers, having the best view of the fullbacks, communicate with the defensive players to hold their defensive positions with balance(remember being caught out on the break by chelsea when clichy was caught out wandering in no-man’s land). And nervesness takes hold. Even to some great players. Being an immature psychiatry student, and knowing the mighty arsenal, we just need out confidence back and that’ll bring back everything the team had with 11 game streak. We’ve started well against sunderland. Stoke must be the platform.

  18. uk says:

    Sori desi but even on one on ones which you say is big al’s strong point 90% of gooners know shay is way better, when we do the analysis another 9% will agree, support AW all you want but we are not deceived, and as much as we giv him credit for d trophies long time ago, we also giv him CREDIT 4 d embarrassment of recent years,

    • desigunner says:

      Well, in football majority opinion does not matter. Otherwise clubs won’t need managers they can just take a poll on their website and take the decisions based on the poll results.

      I’ve observed and analyzed over a long period and Almunia’s technique is by far the best in the league in one-on-ones. I’ve explained it in detail in my Sunderland game review. If you have any actual counter point I’ll be willing to listen. Coating an opinion with a made up stat doesn’t mean anything.

      Btw, today Given conceded a bad goal from Lampard, something that Almunia with his technique would have saved.

  19. […] no better than our keepers as far as aerial presence goes (Stewart Robson explained this well and I did an article last year that exposed Given’s woes in three games against Stoke), there were some who didn’t […]

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