The Nets Big Thing
Unraveling the complicated and at times baffling events within the Arsenal goalkeeping department goes a long way to explaining how highly rated Wojciech Szczęsny is at the club. Arsene Wenger seems willing acknowledge Manuel Almunia’s shortcomings by occasionally dropping the Spaniard, but he never goes further and pushes him out of the club. Likewise Lukasz Fabiankski is a player of potential, but despite a good showing against Man City, doubts remain about his ability to provide what’s required for a team aspiring to win domestic and European honours. During the summer Arsenal were rumoured to be on the verge of taking 38 year old Mark Schwarzer to the club and that looked to have an element of succession planning about it. If Wenger could have got a couple of seasons out of the Australian, it would have allowed him to gradually blood the player he hopes will be his number one for many years to come.
Wojciech Szczesny certainly has the potential to fulfill those lofty ambitions. One thing that immediately stands out about the young Pole is his bravery. He throws himself at the feet of attackers with a real ferocity and seems to have the aggressive style to his play common in many top class modern goalkeepers. This was in evidence when he made his second start for the senior team as Arsenal took on Newcastle in the Carling Cup. Early on a rush of blood to the head saw him steaming out of his goal to hand Nile Ranger a golden chance of a goal. In the end, the defence recovered to keep the Magpies out and although it has to go down as an error in judgement for the young Gunner, it’s good to see the desire to do the sweeping duties from a keeper. Next time he just needs to apply it at the right time. Arsenal went on to record an easy win and Szczesny wasn’t as busy as he probably would have hoped, but he still emerged from the game with credit however, making some impressive saves – chief among them a stunning fingertip save to turn a Alan Smith rocket onto the crossbar.
Of course that was just one game and it’s hard to draw to many conclusions , but in his appearances for Arsenal reserves and on loan at Brentford, Szczesny has displayed the array of talents that have earned such high praise from Wenger. Closely related to his previously mentioned bravery is his skill in one on one situations. He closes down opponents very quickly and stays big which obviously makes it very difficult for the player trying to find a way past him. Arsene Wenger places a lot of faith in the reactions of his goalkeepers and as you’d expect, Szczesny’s reflexes look to be of the highest order. He is capable of making point blank saves and his shot-stopping looks good. He uses his 6 foot 5 inches to good effect in coming out to command his penalty area and his handling seems to be excellent. He looks to be a genuinely exciting prospect, particularly if he works on his decision-making. With his father being a former keeper for the Polish national team, he should be able to rely on good advice.
There’s still a lot to learn if he’s step-up to the high pressure environment of Premier League and Champions League games – the constant pressure often being enough to derail the careers of emerging goalkeepers. It’d be folly for Arsenal fans to expect too much for the moment, but Szczesny could eventually be the long term solution to a long running problem.