There is no shortage of speculation at the moment about the goalkeeping situation at the club. Obviously this is not particularly reassuring for the current first choice goalkeeper and he quite rightly is not enjoying the speculation. No doubt Manuel is partly to blame for this situation, his form has been somewhat erratic over the last year. However personally I feel the club's management are also to blame, they have never seemingly supported him and he has been undermined at times, sometimes unfairly I would argue.
Off the field events clearly affected Manuel last season, we were told that a chest infection and a bereavement in the family were behind his prolonged absence. Whatever the reasons, he clearly wasn't particularly fortunate with a series of events. He didn't have a brilliant season last year, but he was by far our best goalkeeper and he was pretty decent. Despite the odd error he did have some truly top notch games, Barcelona at home being one great example. In earlier seasons when he was very consistent, in my opinion he never really got the credit he deserved.
Confidence is vital as a goalkeeper and it is vital that a goalkeeper is backed, even when things are going badly. We saw this weekend how a very good goalkeeper (Reina) can make a shocking error but he will be supported by his manager and team mates alike, this is vital. Being backed by one's manager and knowing you are no 1 is also key in remaining confident.
I don't think Manuel has been helped by the manager at times. For example this pre season it was obvious that Fabianski was being given a chance to replace him as no 1 despite a series of appalling performances. It cannot be good for a goalkeepers confidence to see this happen, it shows a distinct lack of faith from the management which is bound to have a knock on effect on the keeper's performances. This also happened at times last season and this resulted in stupid dropped points when Manuel's deputy was clearly not up to the task.
Maybe Manuel has never been good enough to be a first choice Arsenal keeper. However once he was made no 1 he should be been backed 100% by the management and fans, personally I feel that a lot of people have always seen what they have wanted to see with Manuel. For example last weekend people were trying to blame Manuel for the Ngog goal, I hardly think it is fair to claim that not making one the saves of the season is a goalkeeping error! Actually over the last few seasons he has made very few bad errors, even when his form has been at its worst.
Several other big keepers at the big clubs like Cech, Reina and Van der Saar have been some real howlers, but when this happens they are not undermined, they are supported and this helps the goalkeepers. The fact that Manuel has always had people on his back is part of a vicious cycle of confidence and support which does not help Arsenal Football Club. It is also worth noting that he gets the least help from his defenders of any keeper at a top club, yet for some reason some people like to unfairly dump all our aerial failings at Manuel's door. It is easy to blame Manuel and call him 'nervy', but it is rather obvious that a lack of support from the management is at least as much to blame for this as anything else.
The current speculation cannot be helping Manuel's confidence and this cannot be good for the club. I think the move for Schwarzer is a very strange one, here we have a guy approaching 40 who is arguably no better than Manuel, I agree with Stewart Robson on this one, moving for Schwarzer doesn't make any sense to me. Remember his miskick last season at the Emirates and his calamitous world cup? Robson also makes the point that Shay Given cannot dominate in the air, something that many people like to ignore, for some of us the grass is always greener on the other side, but when we get to the other side they want to move on again.
Overall I think goalkeeping is a very special role in a football team, you have to be a bit binary with the way you manage your goalkeepers because confidence is so key in their performances. Personally I don't think Manuel has ever been given the support he should have been and this has made things harder for him. Maybe things are almost untenable for him now, but if we sign no goalkeeper then we should all get behind him as he is bound to play better with the crowd's full support. I am getting fed up with a lot of the unfair criticism that he has been subjected to of late, it is time to get behind him now.