Wojciech Szczesny – The marmite-like ‘keeper who divides opinion

Posted: May 6, 2013 in Arsenal, Premier League

Wojciech Szczesny

 

There isn’t an Arsenal player, in the current team, who divides opinion more than Wojciech Szczesny. Vermaelen could be argued as one, but I feel more people dislike him, because of his constant mistakes since QPR away last season, than those who do still like him. Sagna is another, but I believe a bigger amount of our fan base would be content with seeing him leave in the summer following a vast amount of sub-par performances this season. The only man who comes close to Szczesny is Giroud, but I’ve already spoken about him before. With our Pole in goal, no not Fabianski, but Wojciech Szczesny, we’ve someone who’s quite like the marmite footballer of this football club.

Szczesny’s blown hot and cold this season; he’s had games like Everton away where he’s struggled, once again, to get down quick enough to save a shot from distance and then he’s had games like the one against Sunderland where he was exceptionally sublime and single-handedly won us the game, along with a makeshift centre-back in Bacary Sagna. There have been games where even the littlest of things have disgruntled the fans, and myself: Liverpool at home – Szczesny decides to execute his patented Cruyff turn, only to be dispossessed in his own box. Luckily, nothing bad happened apart from a few hearts in the crowd, and at home, stopping momentarily. This is something Szczesny does a lot. Not only is his cockiness & arrogance off the field, in interviews, frowned upon, he also lacks maturity on the pitch when it comes doing these pointless fancy, showboating tricks in his own box.

In my opinion, Szczesny’s cockiness is almost set up by him as a barrier to help him bounce back from mistakes. When he makes a mistake, his head never drops in that game, but he’ll continue to make that mistake repeatedly in later weeks/months. I feel this is down to his lack of competition at the club. Take away the recent showing of ruthlessness from Wenger to finally give Szczesny a kick up the backside and drop him, Szczesny’s almost been unrivaled as Arsenal’s number one ‘keeper. With someone perhaps more experienced than the Pole, Szczesny would learn something from this figure. At the age of 23, he’s still a naïve character who, in reality, shouldn’t be near the first-team of a top club at that age – for this reason alone, I feel he’s got the potential to be a great for Arsenal. Wenger isn’t a fool, he knows potential when he sees it. Szczesny is an extremely good shot-stopper for his age and can, more times often than not, hold his own between the sticks and organise his defence.

The problem with Szczesny is that he’s never really been given a kick up the backside, or even introduced to the notion of a ‘keeper at his club being ‘better’ than him. His constant first-team appearances, despite mistakes being made, must feed his already giant ego. In his head, he’s led to believe that he’s better than every other ‘keeper at the club. When he went to Brentford on loan in 2009, he started almost every game without being dropped for a different ‘keeper. In recent months, we’ve seen Fabianski come into the mix and relegate Szczesny to the bench; Wenger has also left Szczesny out of the squad as a whole due to him displaying “mental tiredness”. Szczesny even deputised for the U21’s against Liverpool, to whom he conceded three goals. This must’ve hurt Szczesny immensely – seeing his compatriot take his place in the first-team, being put in the U21’s to build his confidence again. But it’s something that, fingers crossed, will help Szczesny develop into a much better goalkeeper.

Since Fabianski picked up yet another injury, Szczesny has returned to his coveted first-team goalkeeper spot where he’s only conceded one goal in four games, as of writing this; that one goal was also a penalty, so he’s conceded none from open play. He also played a huge part in the recent 1-0 win away at QPR where he made a vital stop, eight minutes from time, to keep the score at 1-0 to the Arsenal. He’s come back in, concentrated on his football and has yet to make a catastrophic mistake or one of those silly tricks he does in his own area.

At the tender age of 23, it’s crazy that we’ve become so expectant of Szczesny. But he needs to understand that the criticism he’s recently received has been warranted. He now sports the Arsenal kit with the number ‘1’ on the back which, in itself, shows the belief Wenger has in him. Wenger could’ve signed someone last season, or the season before, to be a regular, experienced and consistent performer between the sticks, but he’s kept at it with Szczesny. Many will knock Wenger over tactical decisions and so on, but you can never knock his ability to develop and nurture youngsters into potentially great players for the future. In my humble opinion, if Fabianski leaves in the summer, we should sign someone vastly experienced. Someone who’ll not only challenge Szczesny for the number 1 spot, but will also take the pole under his wing and pass down some tips to Szczesny. Szczesny will become a far better player and will learn to curb his misplaced confidence on the pitch. I’ve no doubt Szczesny will be the man between the sticks for years to come at the Emirates – he has the potential to do so.

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