There has been some focus in recent weeks on the performances of Arsenal’s young Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Pundits’ reviews have fluctuated from high praise to borderline ridicule, and the goalkeeping issue at Arsenal is slowly but surely creeping up as a topic of concern among the fans.
After the retirement of Jens Lehmann brought an end to an era of stability between the sticks at Arsenal, there was a period of time Arsenal fans will remember well, when Manuel Almunia was, frighteningly, the club’s no.1 goalkeeper.
When the Spaniard’s inevitable decline became simply too much to bear, there was an expectation that the club would go into the market and solve the goalkeeping issue once and for all. That wasn’t to happen, and instead Lukasz Fabianski was lined up as the successor, nay the saviour of Arsenal’s number one jersey. Through a stroke of fate, Fabianski never really established himself as the keeper Arsenal were in such desperate need of, with poor form and injury blighting his prospects.
This signalled the unlikely rise of an inexperienced goalkeeper from the Arsenal youth ranks, a player the club signed as a sixteen year old, and who had been the Gunners' third choice keeper following a loan spell at Brentford.
Injuries to the two first choice goalies meant that Szczesny got a run of games in the first team in 2011, and he hasn’t really looked back since. He has been Arsenal’s unchallenged number one keeper for two seasons, with his performances often helping the team to precious points.
He has however, especially since coming back from a less than successful Euro 2012 campaign, been prone to mistakes. The frustration has grown, and it is perhaps unfortunate that Szczesny’s dip in form has coincided with such a difficult time for the club, with fans growing impatient and frustrated.
Not all share those frustrations however. Wojciech Szczesny splits opinion among Arsenal supporters in a big way, he always has done. There are those that see him as yet another failed young prospect, a keeper blocking the signing of a big name keeper, a Martin Stekelenburg, or a Pepe Reina, and a player that is a constant liability to the team.
"Remember that Birmingham game" they say, referring to the final of the League Cup a few years back, when Szczesny's mix up with Laurent Koscielny cost Arsenal the trophy.
Other sections of the Arsenal community see him as a brilliant goalkeeper, capable of rescuing points and games single handedly; and we only have to look back to last week's game at Sunderland to see that. His extroverted personality, clear love for the club and genuine character make him a favourite among some.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
The Polish keeper is no doubt a prospect with serious potential, but he has his flaws, his ability to deal with crosses springs to mind and as a goalkeeper, his mistakes are costly.
But somewhere in Szczesny there is a world class goalkeeper, and Arsenal need him to turn up more often if they are to get their season back on track.
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