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Szczesny, the number one…. but for how long?

By Walter Broeckx

Let us have a look at our number one goalkeeper from last season and who probably also will be the number one for the coming season.  And the next, and the next…

Wojciech Szczesny is the one I am talking about of course.  He was not even 21 when he made his first appearance in the league at Old Trafford. Throwing in the deep one could say. And he did rather good. He looked composed and wasn’t fazed too much by the occasion at the time. He couldn’t prevent us losing 1-0 but it was a promising start for the youngster in goal.

He then went from strength to strength in that season. A little set back after an injury came his way but  ultimately it  led to him being the number one in the season that is just lying behind us. 38 appearances in the league is telling the story: He is the current number 1.

He is very much loved by the fans because he openly comes out for his love to our club. When he still was on twitter he defended the club in a very strong way. And always showing a big belief in the club, the manager and maybe most importantly: in himself.  I have been a bit of a goalkeeper in my long gone playing days. So I know a bit about it. Even though in those days we played with no gloves or when it was really freezing cold with woollen gloves that where so slippery, you could also have used soap. But our task was the same as it is now: just prevent the ball from going in. No matter how or with what part of the body: just stop it.

Now the worst thing that can happen to a keeper and for his confidence is to make an error. And any keeper will make an error every now and then.  A forward makes errors when missing a chance, a keeper making an error is more costly and could directly  lead to a goal for the opposition.  Making an error is part of the game but also how you react and how your confidence is affected is sometimes the difference between a top keeper and a mid class keeper.  I think in that part Szczesny is a top keeper.

One of the few errors he made was in my opinion the second goal from Tottenham at White Hart Lane. And he admitted it after the game and how gutted he was for letting that ball go in.  I think it is good for a keeper that he did came out about it and admitted his error and vowed to make up for it. And well I think he rather did that in the rest of the season. I can’t really think of many more goals where he was at fault.

We did concede many goals. 49 goals. Too much. But I think he was not at fault for many of them. I think some defensive unbalance because of the injuries was more responsible for Arsenal conceding 49 goals than his goal keeping itself.

Are there parts where he can work on? Yes there are of course. If he would be perfect by now it would be unbelievable.

So what could he be working on? Well I felt that his defending of long range shots was not 100% at times. I know that some shots are unstoppable. Young at Old Trafford was an example.  It was Young his day and every ball he kicked just ended up in the top corner. But like I said the second goal from Tottenham was an example that he has to work on that. (But much more went wrong seconds before that goal but still he had to stop it)

Another weak point is that at times he is a bat rash in coming out of his area. At Chelsea he nearly made a mess of it and you sometimes can see that his judgement in those situations can get better.  But that is the way it goes sometimes with a young keeper. You have to make the decision: do I come out or stay and it can go wrong.

What are his strong points as a keeper? He is good on his line with good reflexes in general. He is determined and quick back on his feet (Liverpool penalty stop and follow up anyone?) . I think he is most of the time very secure when he comes out to claim a high ball. He has strong fists when he tries to punch a high ball away.  In fact when I see him coming for a high ball I feel rather sure that he will make it.

He is strong with the ball at his feet. And I am not talking about kicking the ball up field by this. I mean that he could actually play a bit in the field if really needed. We had a few moments this season when we stopped breathing when he dribbled a forward and he usually came out as the winner.  Of course it is a risky thing but it also shows that he is confident and that is very important for a keeper. And don’t forget that in the last 5 or 6 matches he played with a shoulder injury preventing him to reach his best level. But Wenger was so impressed by his performances that he took the risk of playing a not completely fit keeper in those important games.

His kicking the ball up field is not yet perfect. It has improved a lot since his first games in December  2010. He had promised to work on it and has succeeded. And I know some balls go outside the field or end up with the opponents. But believe me I have seen the kicking of Van Der Sar in his early days at Ajax and that was terrible at times. And later Van Der Sar became applauded for having a good kick and even giving assists like that.

And finally his worst and best thing as a keeper are the same: he is a bit of a lunatic at times.  All good keepers are a bit lunatic as we know. It is how you keep that in control that matters the most.

So what do I expect from him in the next season? Well that he will become even better. I really do think that he knows where he has to work on. He was very open on twitter about his weak things at times and this is an excellent thing. You can only work on your weak things when you realise them and feel humble enough to work on them.

His big dream was to be the number one keeper of Arsenal for the next 10 years he told last season. I think if he can work on the little things that I mentioned (and some other smaller points that the staff will have identified – I hope) he could be our number one keeper for even longer.

He really seems to love the club. His actions when we win an important game show that he celebrates with and as a fan. It has helped him to become very popular amongst the supporters. And that also is a good thing because when he makes a mistake it is important, no correct myself VERY IMPORTANT, that the supporters don’t turn their backs on him. It is important that when he makes a mistakes the fans know that he suffers as much as we do, maybe even more.  Of course at Untold we will support him in the days if it would happen. Because that is what we as supporters should do.

At 22 he has the world at his feet and can become a legend at Arsenal. If he will actually become one will be answered in some 10-15 years time.

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18 comments to Szczesny, the number one…. but for how long?

  • wambam

    Reminds me of Casillas. He’s been Real’s no.1 from 18. No he wasn’t perfect, but he worked on his weak points and now he’s a club legend.

    you can’t save them all.

  • colario

    ‘when he makes a mistake it is important, no correct myself VERY IMPORTANT, that the supporters don’t turn their backs on him. It is important that when he makes a mistakes the fans know that he suffers as much as we do.’
    I hope that every fan of Arsenal reads your words Walter and takes them to heart and remembers them when a player makes a mistake.
    If we want the players to paly as a team and encourage each other, help each other, forgive other then we fans must do the same.
    A supporter is someone who helps not attacks the team. Attack one and we attack the whole team.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I do hope that Jens ‘maddness’ has been passed onto him .I expect him to be more aggressive in the box ,especially during the set plays. Lets hope for a good year from our number one .

  • nicky

    My immediate concern is not only with Szczesny but with our fast disappearing 2nd and 3rd string goalies. We must sort out this position before next term.
    Ideally, I would like to see a top-class experienced international (Loris?) signed with the fast learning Szczesny as his No.2. He still has a bit to learn on crosses, when and when not to leave his goal, as well as distribution. When this has been achieved, I have no doubt he will become an Arsenal legend.

  • FinnGooner

    @colario I agree with you on everything. Usually when players make mistakes they feel bad themselves big mistakes might get their confidence really low, and if supporters show their faith and support player might get his/herconfidence back sooner. Booing and negative critisism might make things even worse (there are rare players who after being booed gets “I’ll show them”-mentality.

    @Nicky I disagree with getting new number 1 and dropping Szczesny NO2. That might be great way to make him thinking about leaving. Then again if Fabianski and Mannone leave we should get someone to be no 2 and challenge Szczesny. He won’t accept being dropped sencond unless he loses the place in fair “fight” on training ground and on pitch.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Szczesny would do good if he stays no 1 for 10 years at Arsenal. He is being caught by fast learning Martinez. We dont need a no 1. I think an older goal keeper with good experience who is good enough to keep Szczesny honest is the need of the hour.

  • Goona Gal

    If the truth be told, I am still not 100% about Szczesny being our no.1 goalie for the next season. If there is one position I am hoping that is strengthened before next season, then it is GK. If Lloris is really available at a reasonable fee(if I recall Lyon were rumoured to ridiculously want 40m, when they knew we were on the market for one in 2010), then I think we should make enquiries because like others have said Mannone and Fab might be on their way. It is very strange that Lyon have put Lloris on the market now though, especially as he only signed an extention last year.

    Mannone has shown potential to be a good GK, but ultimately does’nt seem capable to do it at Arsenal right now if called upon. At Hull he excelled but Arsenal seems one leap too far for him. I watched him at the Emirates cup last year and it was not a reassuring display and neither was the CL game. We need a GK that is capable right now. I like Fabinaski, he is a good keeper, but I keep hearing he wants to go, so I think we should let him if that’s the case. Ideally we should get in an older competent GK who would bring experience and one who would not overshadow Szczesny’s development or one from the lower part of the table who would relish the opportunity to be a part of the Arsenal squad.

    I’m slightly nervous about the situation as it stands. Szczesny has a great personality, but this is not enough in my opinion.

    @ Walter, nice article. Hopefully it will not descend into simpleton bile against any current or former keeper though.

  • Stuart

    I am currently in Poland seeing family and whilst watching the Euro Final with 3 Polish, 2 Germans and 1 English, we got onto the subject of Shezza. We all agreed he has the makings of the perfect keeper, particularly as he has the perfect amount of craziness in him, a point which my Polish friends pointed out also mirrors his father who most would know was also a great goal keeper for Poland.

  • toby

    An amusing little anecdote about kicking the ball upfield….I was a regular in the North Bank during the Graham years, and at one game (can’t remember which) Lukic kept punting the ball into touch right in front of the dugouts, much to the North Bank’s derision. Finally he managed to hit one down the middle, the North Bank applauded as one, and Lukic snuck a little ‘thumbs up’ behind his back. Very endearing….

  • Ong Bing

    I like Szczesny, if he is really good, he will be our no. 1 until 40, like Seaman.

    McDermott already released, maybe Martinez will be no. 2, because Fab want to leave and Mannone is not good enough.

  • Damien Luu

    Now, now, you don’t suddenly buy an “experienced” keeper and push Scz down the queue. Even if Casillas or some so-called “No.1 keeper of the world” is available for free. The boy is a great keeper at his age, he loves the Club and he prouds to play for the Club. And he always want to be the best of the bests, meaning he has ambition and can only improve. What else could you ask for? Mark my words: you could have the greatest ever keeper in the Club history in your hand right now. Throw him away and you will give the AAA enough ammo to use in the next 5 years.

  • Ong Bing

    Agree with Damien, we must give Szczesny time to play, if not, he can’t be a good GK.

    And Martinez, if Martinez will be no.2, his chance is in Carling and FA.

    I don’t know about no. 3, James Shea? Or James Shea go on loan?

  • rusty

    Agree with @Damien on this one — buying a keeper from elsewhere is not only a waste of money, it jeopardizes Szcz’s career, from a confidence perspective. Buy Lloris and put him on the bench? That would only give us two unhappy keepers, one who isn’t playing and the other who is sent the message that we don’t trust him. The AAA / buy-em-all crowd are normally fairly shortsighted, but this is impressive even for them.

  • LRV

    Arsenal has always been blessed with great goal tenders, though a few not so good ones have also been engured. But mark my words, Szczesny, in a few years, will become one of the best goalkeepers Arsenal ever had; a legend in the making for sure.

  • LRV

    “engured”? What in god’s name is that? I meant ‘endured’.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Szcesny will always be our No.1 and maybe Martinez can be our #2 but to bring in a keeper to replace Szcesny is tantamount to suicide. He’ll want to leave if he doesn’t get played enough but he’ll be great if he knows an inexperienced but competitive 2nd keeper is breathing down his neck.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Chez is our # 1, period.

    Sell either one of Mannone or Fabby and preferably sell the keeper we can get the most amount of money for, period.

    Keep the keeper whom we would get a less offer for. Both would be good # 2’s so whomever we keep will a good #2 standard.

    I don’t care if one of fabby and mannone is unhappy if he is kept, arsenal having a solid # 2 is more important.

    With a solid #1,#2,#3 (Martinez) we have no actual gk challenges this summer, period!

    (so all speculator’s should move onto more pressing matters:)

  • Heci

    Imo Fabianski and Mannone are not solid back up.
    And if SZCZ plays even when he is injured (he got many injections last year..) then we might as well have Martinez as the back up.

    Also I’d just like to give you all a bit of a heads up about Hugo Lloris from Lyon who has a set price at 16 million pounds and is a pretty soild keeper, but his agent is using us as trying to create a market for him and I think he will end up at spers or Liverpool this summer. So don’t get fooled by the agent and keep in mind Wenger believes in SZCZ and the only thing that will prevent him from starting games is a serious injury which we can all hope never ever happens!