It might be a new season, but it’s been the same old story for Arsenal. And until Arsene Wenger signs a holding midfielder and, more importantly, a world-class goalkeeper in place of Wojciech Szczesny, the Gunners will continue to miss out on the biggest trophies.
Szczesny, in goalkeeper terms, is still relatively young at 24. But the Poland international does not appear to be on course to develop into one of the world’s best keepers.
How do we know this? Well, compare him to the Premier League’s four best goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Petr Cech, David de Gea and Joe Hart.
Hart and Cech were both better all-round goalkeepers than Szczesny at the age of 24, while Courtois and De Gea are both younger than the Pole yet already more complete.
Then compare him to the world’s best goalkeepers. Manuel Neuer was already superb at the same age, during his spell with Schalke; as was Gianluigi Buffon and, even though he’s well past his best these days, Iker Casillas.
Szczesny's flaws and poor displays
Szczesny is by no means a bad goalkeeper, but he suffers from concentration issues and his decision making is suspect. At the top level the slightest lapse in focus will inevitably prove costly, and we’ve already seen instances of Szczesny costing his side goals at the start of this season.
A quick glance at WhoScored.com’s statistics for Arsenal show that Szczesny is ranked 17th, in terms of a rating out of 10, out of 21 players in the Gunners squad for the season so far.
Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski have lower ratings - and they’ve barely featured this term, barring the odd sub appearance.
Szczesny’s 6.53 rating is even lower than the 6.63 rating next to the name of Yaya Sanogo, which says everything you need to know about how poor Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper has been so far this season.
Ospina is no better
But the most disappointing thing for Arsenal supporters is that there’s not currently a better option at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger lost Lukasz Fabianski - the goalkeeper who helped Arsenal secure the FA Cup, their first piece of silverware for nine years, back in May - and replaced him with Colombia international David Ospina.
The 26-year-old South American made his first appearance for the Gunners during Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat to Southampton and failed to convince. Sure, it was his first performance, but he arrived as a bench-warmer and a bench-warmer he shall remain.
What Arsenal needed was a top-class goalkeeper - not to play back-up to Szczesny, but to replace him.
Petr Cech is perfect for Arsenal
Perhaps Wenger was too proud to go to Jose Mourinho and ask for one of his players, but why he didn’t make an offer for Petr Cech at the end of the summer transfer window is a mystery.
Cech might be 32, but he’s still a quality goalkeeper. Although it’s probably fair to say that his best years are now behind him, we’re still talking about the man who was named in last season’s PFA Team of the Year.
The Czech Republic international might be putting on a brave face at the moment, but it’s no secret that he’s bitterly disappointed - but not surprised - after losing his first-team place to Courtois.
Mourinho had no other option. His decision to replace Cech with Courtois was in the best interests of Chelsea Football Club. But there’s no way he can keep both of them at Stamford Bridge for the entire season. Cech will need to leave the west London outfit for the good of his own career in the New Year.
It’s reported that Cech and his family are settled in London and he would prefer to stay in the English capital, in which case it makes even more sense for Arsenal to make an ambitious move for Cech.
Wenger too proud to contact Mourinho
The suspicion is that were Chelsea managed by anyone but Mourinho, Wenger would have at least made a speculative enquiry for Cech’s services. But because the relationship between the two men is frosty to say the least, it seems Wenger was reluctant to even entertain the idea.
But Cech would have such a galvanising effect on this Arsenal team. He’s a winner and, crucially, a leader.
Perhaps Szczesny will develop leadership qualities as he matures, but for now he doesn’t appear to inspire his back-four with any real confidence.
Cech can become Wenger's most important signing
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of a reliable goalkeeper - someone with the ability to ease the pressure off his defenders by consistently making the right decisions - and there’s no doubt Cech falls into this category, having performed brilliantly for the past decade.
Because Cech is a model professional, trains hard and keeps himself in good condition, there’s no reason why he can’t go on to play at the top level for at least another six years.
And if Wenger can swallow his pride by talking to Mourinho about a potential January move for Cech, it could prove to be one of the most important signings of his 18-year Arsenal tenure.