Connect in the back of the net

Wojciech Szczesny joined Arsenal in the 2006 at the age of sixteen, from Polish club Legia Warsaw.

Now twenty seven and currently the starting goalkeeper for Serie A runners-up AS Roma, no one could have predicted his strange trajectory.

Szczesny is still currently an Arsenal player, spending the last two season on loan in Rome. Will he be an Arsenal player next season? That’s very up in the air. Should he be? Yes.

Twenty seven is extremely young for a keeper. It’s very possible to continue playing at the highest level well into your mid to late thirties. By those measures, Szczesny is currently in his “prime”.

He’s made 181 appearances for Arsenal, 81 for Roma, and 28 for the Polish national team. Let’s take a look back at his Arsenal tenure.

 

Promising start

During the 2009-10 season, Wojciech made his senior team debut. He only made one appearance that season. However, the manager was impressed and tipped him to become Arsenal’s first choice keeper in the future.

The club had high hopes for him. He was then loaned to Brentford for a month, garnering more experience. He was also praised by then Brentford manager Andy Scott.

Upon returning to Arsenal for 2010-11 season, he was in direct competition with Polish teammate Lukasz Fabianski and experienced Spaniard Manuel Almunia.

Szczesny also committed his long-term future to the club during this season with a new contract. He made his Premier League debut following injuries to the aforementioned keepers.

Wenger was impressed enough with his performances that he stuck with him, awarding him the number one goalkeeper position.

 

Memorable moments

Two marquee matches followed.

First, the famous 2-1 victory over the seemingly invincible Pep Barcelona at the Emirates. A match in which Szczesny made crucial saves against the likes of Lionel Messi and David Villa.

In what was surely supposed to be the end of Arsenal’s trophy drought, the Gunners fell to Birmingham City in the league cup final.

A late mixup between the Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny gifted Obafemi Martins a wide open goal.

It was an extremely disappointing end to what was a decent campaign for Szczesny.

 

Firmly the number one

In 2011-12 Szczesny was firmly Arsenal’s number one choice keeper, playing every minute of every premier league match in an uneventful season.

The 2012-13 campaign similarly provided nothing too noteworthy as Arsenal continued to hover around the Champions League places, with Wojciech playing most matches despite a couple of injuries.

In 2013-14, the Pole was sent off against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which would become a bit of a hallmark for him. He signed a new contract and Arsenal went on to finally break that trophy drought with an FA Cup final win over Wigan.

Unfortunately for Szczesny, his compatriot Fabianski played the final as he was anointed cup duties, while Szczesny played the Premier League and Champions League matches.

Speaking of the Premier League, Szczesny was awarded the Golden Glove award along with future Arsenal keeper Petr Cech who both kept sixteen clean sheets.

 

Turning point

The 2014-15 season would prove to be significant for Szczesny’s Arsenal career. Arsenal signed Colombian number one David Ospina that summer, following his stellar World Cup performances.

It was a possible sign of the manager’s depleting confidence in the Pole. Ospina wasn’t a project, he was a player who was ready to start immediately. Maybe Wenger wanted to inspire some keeper competition, to not let Szczesny get complacent who was still young in keeper years.

Following a string of poor performances from the Pole, he had arguably his most famous, or infamous incident as a Gunner to date.

After a 2-0 loss away at Southampton, a match in which Szczesny was clearly at fault for both goals — he was caught smoking a cigarette in the showers. He was subsequently fined 20,00 euros and benched for the rest of the Premier League season in favor of David Ospina.

Luckily for Szczesny, he did start the FA Cup final, where he helped the Gunners ease to a second straight victory in the tournament with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

 

Crossroads

Szczesny was at a crossroads in his career now. He was clearly a talented keeper.

At times though, he was hampered by poor decision making, inexperience, and red cards. He would often make unnecessarily aggressive challenges on opposing attackers, resulting in red cards for him and penalties for the opponent.

It was a bit reminiscent of Laurent Koscielny’s beginnings at Arsenal. They stuck with him and he’s turned into one of the best center backs in the Premier League and club vice-captain.

Arsenal then signed Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea that summer, for ten million pounds. This all but spelled the end for Szczesny at Arsenal right? Well, sort of.

 

Loan to AS Roma

There was no way Arsenal could keep all three of these keepers. So they didn’t. They loaned out Wojciech to AS Roma in Italy for the season.

He made lots of improvement and got lots of playing time.

Some of his past issues resurfaced as he once again got caught smoking in the showers, following a loss. He was dropped for the next match.

After the 2015/16 season there was still no opportunity for him at Arsenal with Cech and Ospina battling it out for the starting position. Arsenal extended his loan another season at Roma.

In two seasons at Roma, Szczesny was their first choice keeper in Serie A. He made sixty four starts, starting every league match both seasons. He recorded twenty eight overall clean sheets and amazingly did not receive any cards.

He was growing up, except at another club. The talent was finally being combined with the mental aspects of the game. From an Arsenal perspective, it was great to see.

Last season, Roma finished with eighty seven points. Finishing only four behind perennial champions Juventus and recording their highest point total ever.

 

So what now for Wojciech Szczesny?

He’s evolved, grown, and improved. With David Ospina’s departure from Arsenal looming, it would make sense for the Gunners to retain him.

As obvious and simple of an answer as that may seem, it’s not. Roma aren’t keen on keeping him. Arsenal should have taken him back yesterday.

However, reportedly Arsenal want Emi Martinez to take the backup role to Petr Cech and eventually take over the number one spot.

Juventus have reportedly expressed interested in signing Szczesny as a replacement for aging Gianluigi Buffon.

Let’s take a step back for a second.

Arsenal are willing to part with their own academy product whom they invested time and money in, who has also just recently helped one of Europe’s biggest clubs have their best league season ever. It’s insanity.

And instead they want to replace him with a guy who’s never played. That’s not a knock against Martinez. How can you judge a guy who’s never played? Maybe he’ll be really good, but we don’t know.

We’ve seen Szczesny excel and grow over the past two seasons at Roma and now we want to abandon him?

 

Does Arsenal rate him?

From a finical and culture-building standpoint it’s illogical to let him go now in return for nothing, especially when he’s good. Not only that, do Arsenal not rate him?

Juventus sure do and they’re only six-time defending Serie A champions, Champions League runners-up, with one of the best, most accomplished goalkeepers and one of the fiercest defenses in world football in front of him.

Juventus starts and ends with that backline. And they trust Szczesny to take over the giant responsibility of the filling the shoes for the legend Buffon? But Arsenal don’t think Szczesny can come into a side with an aging Petr Cech and an unproven young Argentine? Come on.

Who makes these types of decisions at the club? We just don’t know. It’s another baffling one from Arsenal. Maybe Wenger really sees something in Martinez.

No matter how good a player looks in training, you can’t tell what they’re made of until they find themselves in a difficult situation in a match.

Maybe he sees something in Szczesny he doesn’t like. Or maybe Wenger isn’t involved in any of this decision making process.

 

Possesses Arsenal DNA

Apart from the maturation and overall improvement, he’s an Arsenal player. Not currently at Arsenal, but he’s an Arsenal player. He’s been at the club so long and has a deep affection for it.

He’s always tweeting in support of the club and his teammates, despite being on another team. Sentimentality and loyalty aren’t reasons enough to bring back a player, skill is— and he has it.

Players with at Szczesny’s age and experience don’t usually go out on loan, with Jack Wilshere being another exception. Loan moves are usually for promising young players who the club and or manager thinks can shortly make the jump to regular first team football.

If the current club they’re in are competitive, there won’t be place in the squad for them to get the minutes they need to develop, thus prompting them to go elsewhere.

 

Give the Pole another chance

In Szczesny’s and Wilshere’s cases through a combination of extenuating circumstances and the manager’s lack of faith, they needed to go elsewhere to play.

I’m a firm believer that clubs need to try to instill and keep a level of culture and loyalty, by keeping players who really want to be there and trying their best to help academy players succeed with the first team.

As I said, it’s not enough to just like to the club. Wilshere’s an Arsenal man too, but through his injuries it seems the ship has sailed on him. Szczesny improved and essentially resurrected himself. He loves Arsenal.

Between that and his massive improvement and undeniable talent, he’s ready to compete for the number one shirt at the Emirates. Hopefully he gets the chance to do that.

 

Written by Kyle Keenan

Follow Kyle on Twitter @kyleskeenan

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