Over the years, my main emotion towards Manuel Almunia has always been sympathy. Here was a guy plucked out of obscurity and ended up becoming the first choice Arsenal goalkeeper. He’s never looked like someone who particularly wanted to be our Number 1 nor actually believed he should be the Number 1 but that’s where our great leader plonked him. Despite it being obvious he was completely out of his depth (and kind of knew it himself), he copped a huge amount of flak for his role in our direst of dire defending in the last few years.
But those feelings have changed after this…
"I'm looking for a nice move next season," Almunia told Sky Sports News. "I want to start a new episode of my life."
The keeper insists Wenger is happy for him to move on once his deal runs out and won't stand in his way.
"It's a very respectful relationship and now I'm free, I can do what I like and he's happy with my work at Arsenal for ideas."
And asked if he will remain in England or move back to Spain, Almunia said: "I have got lazy to move too far, because life here in London is fantastic and I hope I can have a club to go to next season so I can stay."
For a start it reads like we’ve shackled him to the goalposts to make him stay. And, while I know he’s probably trying to be self-effacing and amusing by saying it, the idea of him knowing he’s too lazy to have bothered finding somewhere else to ply his trade after slipping from first to third-choice keeper in less than 12 months angers me beyond belief.
At least he can exit Arsenal in the summer as Number 1 in something: the A is for Arsenal Worst Ever Signings by Arsene Wenger Table.
Admittedly it’s something I’ve created in the past 24 hours but it doesn’t take long to come up with some viable candidates for top spot: Jeffers, Stepanovs, Squillaci, Chamakh and Park Chu-Young could all lay claim for a variety of reasons.
What makes Almunia stand out from the crowd is his longevity. It is one thing for Wenger to have taken a punt on a player only to shift him on after spending a year discovering he was not up to scratch.
But Almunia has managed to rack up more than 170 appearances for Arsenal. He took up one of the key positions in the team and contributed to years of awful defending that cost us silverware. His general inability made team-mates nervous. He rushed out when he should have waited and waited when he should have rushed out. He looked like a miserable git. He was made captain!
In all, he is a symbol of the downturn in Arsenal’s fortunes after the Invincibles. Wenger bought cheap, he got crap and, to make things worse, rather than admit he’d made a mistake and cutting his losses, he kept him in the team and gave him a contract so fat that it become impossible to get rid of him.
And one other thing annoys me royally – Almunia won just as much with Arsenal as Cesc Fabregas. Madness. At least I'll be glad to see the back of this Spaniard.