Could Hugo Lloris be the solution to Arsenal’s goalkeeping debacle?

There is a theory that Arsenal have already identified who they intend to install as their first choice goalkeeper, that they were prepared to wait a year to sign him and that is the reason that they neglected that particular area of the team last summer, despite a public outcry. They were willing to take the temporary measure of signing Mark Schwarzer but were unwilling to pay the relatively paltry fee quoted by Fulham, so prepared to enter the season with Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Almunia and Wojciech Szczesny competing for first choice.

Hugo Lloris’s father is a Monaco-based merchant banker and close friends with Arsene Wenger. He also represents his son and is believed to have planned his career in three-year cycles. Having spent three years at Nice, the French international moved to Lyon, recently completing his third season at the Stade Gerland and is widely expected to seek new pastures in the summer. If Arsenal were to move for Lloris, it would certainly improve communication with the rest of the defence as Emmanuel Eboue, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou and Gael Clichy are all French speakers. It would also benefit Arsenal to have an automatic choice in goal, with injury and poor form dividing appearances between Szczesny (24), Fabianski (20), Almunia (14) and Jens Lehmann (1). Some semblance of stability could finally elevate them from also-rans to genuine contenders.

Almunia began the season as first choice but a series of errors against West Brom at the end of September saw him dropped in favour of Fabianski, who cost his side a share of the spoils with a mistake in the home loss to Newcastle. He suffered a shoulder injury in January that ruled him out for the rest of the season, affording Szczesny the chance to shine. The Carling Cup final confusion aside he embraced the opportunity and appeared to have cemented first-choice status. But after dislocating a finger against Barcelona, he handed the reins back to Almunia for the next six weeks, until another West Brom horror show and a knee injury picked allowed Lehmann to make his first appearance for Arsenal in three years at the age of 41. Szczesny returned to the starting line-up for the remainder of the season as the team’s form nose-dived.

Mistakes and a revolving door selection policy have by no means been restricted to the goalkeeping position, with Thomas Vermaelen’s long term absence resulting in every possible combination of Djourou, Squillaci and Koscielny fielded at centre back without success. The statistics for last season reveal that Arsenal conceded the highest proportion of goals from set-pieces (53.5%) in the league, while the fact that they conceded the exact same number of goals from dead ball situations (23) as the previous season suggests that the deficiencies are long standing and require urgent attention. Whether Hugo Lloris would provide a solution or not is arguable, with questions remaining over his command of the area and ability to deal with crosses. However, it would certainly be a step in the right direction, if only to provide a degree of much needed continuity.

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