Have you ever gone looking for one thing and found something else instead?
You know, like when you’re trying to find a screwdriver in the back of the drawer (to fix that shelf and keep your wife from nagging) but instead you come across some old Arsenal match day programmes.
Well, that happened to me yesterday in relation to our current stand-in goalkeeper, Don Vito Corleone Di Tortellini Degli Mannone.
After watching our away win at West Ham (hah! we shoved THOSE bubble where the sun don’t shine) I was left with the feeling that the West Ham players had gone out of their way to harm Don Vito.
I became convinced this must have been a deliberate ploy by Fat Sam to try and intimidate a young and relatively inexperienced ‘keeper.
The most heinous incident was when the Hammers’ winger Ricardo Vas Deferens deliberately trailed his boot into Mannone’s face while ostensibly jumping over him.
It should have been a red card for Vas Oline but the hopelessly inept Phil Dowd missed it (just like he missed the penalty on Aaron Ramsey). Fortunately fate had other ideas and evened up the score by causing the Portuguese to break his collarbone on landing.
I had also noticed some other moments in which the Don received some rough treatment.
I am a busy man, with a job to do, three kids to provide for and a wife to defuse and render harmless (still working on it), so when faced with such idle speculation about the malevolent motives of the Walrus I took the only responsible course of action: I dropped everything and watched the entire match again on Arsenal Player.
To my surprise, I had to admit that there was not a deliberate campaign to rough up our young Italian. He took a whack in the face from Carroll’s shoulder when clearing a high ball in the 32nd minute.
He had Kevin Nolan (anangram: An Evil Nonk) all over him at a corner and was whacked by Winston Reid in the same incident. But really there was nothing untoward. If anything, I was struck by how honestly and fairly Andy Carroll competed for the high balls throughout the game. His eyes were always on the ball and when his arms were raised it was always for elevation and with none of the elbow-stabbing movement for which certain other players are notorious (yes Kevin Davies – I’m looking at you).
I had had a vague idea of writing a Post headlined “Did Fat Sam Send His Players Out To Harm Mannone”, but the facts – on second viewing – did not support the thesis.
However, what I did find during this second viewing – like a 1980s match day programme at the back of a drawer – was a really, really strong performance from Il Custodiante. Better than I had appreciated on first viewing.
Mannone had one dodgy moment in the entire match – coming for the ball in the 66th minute but being beaten in the air by Carroll whose header, thankfully, looped wide.
And even in that case there is an argument that he would not have had to come if either of our central defenders had thought to mark the big Geordie in the penalty area.
But aside from that he looked composed and confident all game long. He made a couple of smart saves (including one low down to his left with the game still finely balanced at 1-2). And his kicking was outstanding. Even when he was given the ball under pressure, he managed to clear it such a long way into the Hammers’ half that we could all breath a sigh of relief.
I also spotted him organising defenders and talking to team mates to tell them where to stand at corners and so on.
It’s too early to say whether Don Vito could turn out to be our Number One ‘keeper. I have read many comments suggesting he is not as commanding or imposing as Wojcech Szczesny.
But on the weekend’s evidence his shot stopping is very good, his kicking is excellent and his decision making was as good as the Pole’s has been.
I feel his horror moment in the Champions League against Olympiakos last season (when he amusingly leapfrogged a goal-bound ball that he could easily have caught) has tarnished his reputation in the eyes of many Arsenal fans.
Now, even when he has a good game, they say things like “he doesn’t really convince” and “you always feel he’s going to make at least one gaffe every game.” I know: I have done it myself.
He just doesn’t get cut the same sort of slack that Szczesny does – even though Wojcech has also had his share of moments more suited to “Funniest Home Videos” than to “Match of the Day.”
Maybe it’s time to start watching Vito’s performances without prejudice and give our Italian rapscallion a fair crack of the whip.
His loan spell at Hull City was deemed a great success by the Tigers’ fans and it may just be that Mannone is growing into the job of being Arsenal’s goalkeeper. With Szczesny rumoured to be out for several weeks yet, the Don will at least get the chance to show us if he is up to the task.
All we need to do is support him.