1st Team Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny (22). Lukasz Fabianksi (27), Vito Mannone (24)
After several off-seasons of worrying that a weak goalkeeping division will undermine the efforts of a talent collection of outfield players, the glove in on the other hand for Arsenal these days. With Wojciech Szczesny in goal, they’ve got one of the league’s best goalkeepers. Last season, he continued to impress and at just 22 years of age, he has the potential to develop into one of the world’s best. His growth is there for all to see. He’s now a more confident, commanding and authoritative figure in his penalty area. He has shown leadership qualities and curbed his tendency to let the red mist descend. Along with his agility and reactions, it makes him a key part of the team. Arsenal’s chances of glory will be hugely dependent on his performances.
He’s still very young and there may still be the odd mistake here and there, but his overall contribution to the team effort is hugely positive. Robin van Persie got the plaudits for his amazing campaign last season, but the Pole’s saves were crucial in making sure the Dutchman’s goals mattered and weren’t just consolation. His performance at Anfield summed up his season. Without a string of great saves in the first half, Liverpool would have been out of sight and the Gunners would have had no chance of getting anything out of the game. Instead, they hung in there, with van Persie grabbing the late winner. That was typical of a few games in which Szczensy made up for the team’s defensive shortcomings.
Not too many tears were shed when Manuel Almunia left the club earlier this summer. Although a very capable keeper when in form, he had become very unreliable and lost concentration far too often. He did have a good deal of Premier League experience however and behind Szczesny these days are the comparatively untested Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone.
Fabianski clearly has ability, but can be untidy with his handling and ideally, you wouldn’t want him in goals for long parts of the season. He’s been a Gunner since 2007 and averaged about 12 games a season over that spell. It’s not much for a 27 year old. Vito Mannone has been at the club for seven years. The Italian is still only 24 years of age, but you get the feeling this is a make or break season for him. He’s had a few loan spells, but rarely suggested he’s close to challenging Szczesny or clawing his way up the pecking order. Another loan spell is possible, but he will need to improve dramatically to be considered a Premier League standard keeper.
With van Persie gone, it could be a tough season for Arsenal. Just how tough may depend on Szczesny’s form.