Should Manuel Almunia play for England?

by Dexy Longshot

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Devil’s Advocate 3

I’m so sorry, he’s from Pamplona…

The devilish fiend of Farrier returns just in time for All Hallow’s Eve and with another tantalising proposition, arguing both sides of the story just for the sake of stirring the cauldron. As there is no possible way of furthering the tedious Halloween link to a certain Arsenal goalkeeper, let’s just get straight on with the big question:


Should Manuel Almunia play for England?


Well now the big international break is upon us, we can reflect on that fact that now England are doing well again, impending friendly matches seem completely meaningless all over again. What else is new. As we all know, though, Fabio’s a perfectionist, and he likes to do things his way. Again the problem looms of the last line of defence. David James has been solid, yet still that nervousness remains that one of these days when confidence is sky high and when we least suspect, he’s going to drop another clanger. Paul Robinson’s international career is now slowly slipping through his fingers as his Blackburn performances are failing him, having been left embarrassed against Middlesbrough and letting in three against Villa in recent weeks.

As for the youngsters – well, it just doesn’t seem right at the moment, does it? You learn from Scott Carson that there’s a time and a place for stepping up to the plate, and careers need to be nurtured before being given such a big game he was unfortunate to come a cropper in. Meanwhile, Ben Foster still hasn’t quite attracted a big move where he can establish himself. One possible face for the future is Mark Bunn, second-choice understudy to Robinson at Ewood Park, and fellow blogger Danny Brothers will also give this relatively young ex-Cobblers keeper a glowing reference for a potentially glittering future. But still none of these relatively rookie keepers are going to get the break needed that’ll keep them ready for the massive demands of World Cup football.

So why not Almunia? He’s a top class goalkeeper, make no mistake. Alright, letting in four against a rejuvenated Spurs is never great, but such an epic game was made by the fact the Spurs were brimming with confidence and one suspects that such form won’t last long for our ‘Arry. Prior to the North London derby, Almunia had conceded an average of 0.6 goals per game this season. As a guide, last season’s champions Manchester United conceded an average of .72 goals per game.

As for the question of his nationality – well, this is a sign of the times. Our manager is Italian and we placed a lot of trust in a certain Swede prior to that. People forget this side is simply a representative team of the English Football Association. With the cosmopolitan nature of the modern FA, should it not be a fair that a player of such skill and devotion to the Premier League, and for a long time as a patient second-choice player to Jens Lemann, be given a chance to represent the national side?



Now, Messers Ross and Brand have got themselves in hot water this week over insulting a Manuel, so I’d better tread carefully. But being politically correct about foreign nationals can only go so far. While Manuel Almunia has done very well to stick with Arsenal (a substitute goalie’s lot is a lonely and depressing one), it’s just not acceptable to declare this man fit to represent a country which has only qualified him citizenship through five years’ residence and an English missus.
It is heartwarming to see that Almunia has declared his interest for playing for England if given the chance. But he’s also made it very clear that he would prefer to play for Spain if they gave him the nod first. While the likes of Casillas and Reina are around, it looks like Almunia’s luck is currently out with the European champions.

The bottom line, though, is that Almunia’s as Spanish as paella. Served in a giant castanet.  Almunia is simply hungry for a bit of international glory, and any notions of national pride and never-say-die patriotism can go hang as far as he’s concerned. Such a blasé approach to international selection does not sit pretty with the likes of truly proud national squad members, the likes of Beckham, Stevie G and even Wayne Rooney, who despite criticism in recent times are as proud as always to wear the three lions.

Picking players with English links and a sense of belonging is fine, as Owen Hargreaves has demonstrated with aplomb. Even that rule about Channel Island folk having the choice of where they play makes sense, nurturing great English talents such as…er…Matt Le Tissier. And…um…Graeme Le Saux. But strictly speaking, letting Almunia play for England would open a set of formidable floodgates. Where will it end? Will England become the new Arsenal – a team which should be representing talent of its home country, but instead fields a starting XI of foreigners nearly on a weekly basis? The mind boggles.The Devil's Advocate

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  • Darren

    When he replaced the nutty German I was worried very time the ball went near him, but very slowly he has won me over. He had a good season last and has been excellent so far. I missed the Spurs game as I was on a plane but I hear he made a few bloopers. 2 bloopers in 10 months isn’t bad. I would put Robert in front of him though, although he’s not exactly bloopper free these days.

    So I would say no, and that is coming from an Arsenal fan!

  • Parks numero uno


  • Ray Stanley

    my order would be:

    1st David James (makes mistakes but everyone does)
    2nd Peter Shilton ( i know his 59 but thats at his peak for a goalkeeper)
    3nd David Seaman (no tash no ponytail these days – deserves another chance)
    4nd Matthew Prior (England wicket keeper untested at football but already an england international)

  • dexylongshot

    Robert Green anyone?
    he has been in fantastic form for the last 2 seasons and look at the stats for shots saved parried etc, i’ve banged on about it before, he beat every other Englishman in nearly all categories last season. You can’t use just the clean sheets stat, i bet if Green was playing for a top 4 club, he would get plenty more clean sheets, unfortunately he plays for West Ham who have just sold half there defence, he made 3 excellent saves on Sunday against Alumnia and the Gooners, Manual is good, but he ain’t as good as Green, Bentley will tell you that!. Fabio has taken notice of Greeno and he is God in my book and we all know he mullers the Devil!!!

  • tef1on

    Rob Green is great but plays behind a shit defense. Manuel deserves his shot… anyone is better than David James

  • matt quinn

    The main reason he shouldnt play for England is because he is shit.

    I think that says it all. Never seen him actually make a save.

    Oh and Rob Green is rubbish too.

  • Darren

    he has been excellent in recent weeks, his blocking his superb but I have my doubts. I think we are very short on decent keepers. Maybe Steve Smith of Richard Wilson should be given a chance

  • BergkampUK

    almunia for England? are you kidding me? while i dont doubt that hes a good goalkeeper (he must have been for wenger to sign him…surely) hes not a great goalkeeper & i really dont know why wenger still has him, he may have had a good season last year, he might have dont pretty well this season, up till the north london derby, but he has not impressed me whatsoever, (saying that, he managed to keep out what little threat man u were to his goal this weekend, not that he had to do too much, fabianski did more in the 10 mins he was on) he might seem like a safer bet than lehmann or even ol’ calamity himself, but id still be happier & more at ease seeing the latter tween both England & arsenals sticks. wenger, find a better keeper (preferbly English, but failing that, any damn good keeper, fabianski might be one for the future, but not yet), & capello, dont even think about handing almunia an international debut, unless youve signed for spain! :-p

  • Darren

    up until a few weeks I would have said yes, he’s been excellent, but recently his performances have been poor.

    As for Fabianski, are you having a laugh? His positioning is terrible, when ever I have seen him he has been utter crap. He was at fault for 3 goals against the Spuds when we got thumped 5-1.

    Why doesn’t Wenger just sign Shay Given? He’d be well cheap, quality keeper, year in year out

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