Arsenal have reportedly had their plans for recruiting competition for number one Wojciech Szczesny scuppered after Barcelona decided to move in on their summer transfer target.
According to the Daily Star, the Gunners had their eye on Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to provide competition for current number one Szczesny next season but will now have to look elsewhere. The report claims Barcelona had similar plans for the Real Sociedad number one and he has opted for Camp Nou over Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal may have dodged a bullet in being snubbed by Bravo as, despite his vast experience in international football, there are still doubts about his ability to perform at the top level and there is the question over whether he would be a the most suitable option in terms of experience. Szczesny is undoubtedly Arsene Wenger's number one and he will be between the sticks in the opening fixture of the 2014/15 Premier League if he isn't injured.
However, the season before last gave proof that the big Poland international is liable to serious lapses in form and so having no realistic competition for him could see his focus slip at some point. To his credit, Szczesny took the warning well and was brilliant when Lukasz Fabianski's injury meant he came back into the team.
The 24-year-old was one of the Gunners most consistent performers last season, though there are legitimate doubts over whether he can be an undisputed number one at a top club without any real challenge to his place, like Petr Cech at Chelsea. It is difficult to discern because of his age; one would expect him to become more mature and closer to his potential with each year, but there is not concrete belief in his capacity to emulate a Premier League great such as Cech.
Experience would be key to the man to bring in as Szczesny's number two and competition, but he will need a track record of reliability as a number two, not to mention happy to play mostly in cup games or when his teammate is injured. Chelsea made a good choice when they opted for veteran Mark Schwarzer to be understudy to Cech - the Australian was previously a target of Wenger's, though couldn't convince Fulham to sell at the time.
Bravo would not seem a good fit for this role as he has no experience of the Premier League and, at only 31 years old, is unlikely to be ready for a role on the subs bench. Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina are two other names that have been mooted as possible Arsenal targets this summer, but both would command too high a wage and are almost certainly not going to accept being understudy.
Names such as those would only be suitable if Wenger wanted to replace Szczesny as number one, but a move such as that does not feel his style after investing so much in the young stopper in the past few years. Arsenal's French manager has usually been more inclined to trust in youth and expect Szczesny to be number one for years to come, so a veteran safe pair of hands is the order of the day. Missing out on Bravo is no disaster.
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