It seemed like just the other day that a young Wojciech Szczesny was given the ultimate baptism of fire by being thrown into cauldron of the Red Devils themselves, at Old Trafford. Our two senior keepers were injured and we finally got to see what the fuss was about, this young keeper we had, so highly rated, particularly from fans of Brentford where he spent the previous season on loan. 7 years later, we say goodbye. Time to look back on “Shezza’s” career in North London, with some memories and not so good memories.
On his day Szczesny was unstoppable. From a young age you could tell he was talented. During his time on loan at Brentford manager Andy Scott stated “It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it.” Indeed it was Arsene Wenger who saw his immense potential when he signed him as a 16 year old in 2006. His shot stopping ability, as well as ability to read and save long range efforts is what makes him so difficult to get past. He had 14 clean sheets last season, the most of anyone in Serie A and if Juventus can see him being the successor to the legend Gianluigi Buffon then Szczesny himself must be something special.
He is also a true Gooner at heart, who absolutely could not help himself when taking the piss out of Tottenham. Indeed, after their 5-1 capitulation at Newcastle last year, he posted on his Instagram “I’ll probably get a fine for this but, it happened again, it happened again, you know the rest”. His first press conference and the emotions from his farewell message tell you all you need to know. The sentiment is strong with this one.
There are plenty of great saves he made at his time at the Arsenal but by far my favourite has to be the double penalty save against Liverpool:
As much as we loved Szczesny he was prone to the occasional howler. Where he excelled in shot stopping and reading the game, he often was terrible at crosses and dropped a fair few which led to goals. Another part of his game which damaged Arsenal was the challenges the in box he made being the last man, particularly in big games. Against Bayern Munich in 2014 his red card killed the game and he did it again against Galatasaray. During the period when he was first choice keeper for Arsenal he was the player that conceded the second most number of penalties. I know the numbers aren’t big but when the league is so competitive these moments count. When you collectively consider all these crucial moments it can mean the difference between a trophy and not winning anything. Contrast this to Petr Cech, when is the last time he’s got a red card (or any card) or failed to meet a cross? Sure he isn’t good at saving penalties, when was the last time he personally conceded a penalty? These are the reasons why Szczesny being super talented fell short at his time at Arsenal.
There were further signs of immaturity. When he got sent off against Bayern Munich he made a w*nker gesture to the crowd which increased him ban. Ultimately however, it was the match on New Year’s day against Southampton in 2015 which was the catalyst for his exit from the club. After a poor performance in which he was arguably at fault for both goals, he was caught smoking in the showers after match. Arsenal fined him and for the remainder of the season it was David Ospina who was suddenly promoted to number 1. Wenger clearly had enough. After conceding one of the goals on the day he went straight for his water bottle as if it didn’t mean much. The day was one of a terrible attitude something Wenger nor any manager for that matter would be prepared to tolerate. Still, it was just one day there was every chance he would come back from this, however, on the other side of town Mourinho had decided that Courtois would be king at Chelsea and Cech would be an understudy. Wenger, a long admirer of Cech’s, someone who he wanted to sign a decade ago, would not pass up this opportunity. Had Szczesny given him some confidence he may have had second thoughts about signing Cech, but a bid was made and Cech came and with it Szczesny’s Arsenal career.
Szczesny may well have matured in Italy, the signs are there, but the circumstances are such that Arsenal already has an experienced, mature, and consistent keeper in Peter Cech who’s actually looking good for the over on 12 clean sheets next season (this article at Sports Betting Dime helps explain how to use that to your benefit). As soon as you add strong understudy David Ospina to the mix, there really is no reason to worry that the Gooners current keepers won’t perform at least as well as Szczesny. Afterall, they’re they reason it just doesn’t make sense for Arsenal to risk it all for Szczesny again.
Nonetheless, Sczesny is a true Gooner as previously stated and no matter what the opinion is on his ability, all Gooners can respect him and wish him all the best in the future (except when he plays against us!). Goodbye Shezza, you will not be easily forgotten!
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