Throughout the history of the Premier League Arsenal have been one of the great teams, everyone remembers ‘The Invincibles’ and there 49 game unbeaten run as well as many other successes. Their success was built on having a great spine to the side, always with a solid and dependable goalkeeper. David Seaman was the most recent benchmark for goalkeepers at Arsenal. His replacement, the keeper during the ‘Invincibles’ season, was Jens Lehmann. Lehmann was a keeper prone to the odd error, but then again so was ‘safe hands’ Seaman, but overall he was decent enough.
Since the departure of Lehmann, Arsenal have struggled to find someone to carry on the legacy of quality goalkeepers at Arsenal, until last season when Wojciech Szczesny stepped up to the plate. He will line up in the Champion’s League tonight as Arsenal’s established number 1 at only 21-years of age after a whirlwind 12 months. He has just been voted by Arsenal fans as ‘EA Sports Player of the Month’ following his performances for the Gunners and if it wasn’t for him, Arsenal would have dropped a few more points this season.
No doubt a lot has been written about Szczesny and how good he is before now, probably countless Arsenal blogs, but as a neutral, I think it is only now that he is truly established as we approach the year anniversary since he made only his second appearance for Arsenal in the League Cup. At one stage everyone seemed to be raving about Lukasz Fabiański being the next great Arsenal number 1, this was before people realised he couldn’t catch a cold, the fortunes of a goalkeeper can change quickly, but there is little doubt Szczesny is here to stay.
The talk about Szczesny has been consistently positive and he always seemed destined for the top. I won’t go on about his father and how he was a goalkeeper blah blah blah because everyone knows his father was also a Polish international. Szczesny has been taking the plaudits of late and during the recent Spurs v Arsenal derby Oliver Kahn referred to Szczesny as ‘world-class’ in what Szczesny rates as his best ever game.
The plaudits have been coming a while; whilst on loan at Brentford in the 2009/10 season he also earned praise from then manager Andy Scott: “His performances suggest that he would not be out of place in the Championship or even the Premier League. It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it”.
Personally I remember talking to footballer over a drink that knew Szczesny from his loan spell at Brentford and was also singing his praises. He told me about when Szczesny arrived at Arsenal they told him the rules of the training ground, one major rule was no gym work unsupervised and you should be in appropriate training wear and footwear at all times. Szczesny completely ignored this and hit the gym for a work out alone. Whilst lifting free weights above his head he managed to break both wrists as the weights were too heavy and was found in the gym in agony wearing just shorts and a t-shirt with no shoes.
He maybe a bit crazy but that is the mark of a good keeper. He is a great example of a new generation of football players we will see over the coming years and is surprisingly similar to Jack Wilshere in the things he says and does. He seems to have developed a bond with Arsenal and will defend them to the hilt if any negative comments are made and is outspoken in his nature, much like Wilshere. He represents a new breed coming through at Arsenal and someone that can lead on the field and in the dressing room, something the club need.
He is very active on Twitter and has already given Ashley Cole some banter via the site: “Is it a plane? Is it an aeroplane? No, it’s just Ashley throwing Chelsea out of the FA Cup”. Big words from the man, he has also used Twitter to correct misquotes on the media about deserving the Arsenal captaincy and that he wants a move to Barcelona. It is great for fans he gives them a glimpse in to his off-field life like looking like a real European in his Audi…
It’s taken a while for Arsenal to find what they were looking for between the sticks, but it seems they have finally got there. Szczesny is full of confidence as he said “I feel I have the support of the fans, the support of my teammates and my manager so it is all in my hands” so he understands his potential. His expectations are high “if I can be the next David Seaman as the fans are expecting then I will be very happy” so let’s just hope he doesn’t feel the pressure…he hasn’t yet and the future for player and club look promising.