Szczesny putting Wenger critics in their place

by Will ODoherty

Friday, February 4th, 2011

It was two years ago that Shay Given broke many a Gooner’s heart by signing for Manchester City, but Wojciech Szczesny has finally healed the wound, and vindicated Arsene Wenger’s faith in youth.

The 20-year-old Pole has emerged from Arsenal’s maligned goalkeepers’ union to establish himself as the club’s next great ‘keeper and the man for the here and now, and he didn’t cost the club millions in the process.

Promoted to first choice after his shot in the warm-up for the Manchester City game injured Lukasz Fabianski, he has shown plenty to suggest his close friend and compatriot will have to do more than merely return to fitness to reclaim his place in the starting line-up.

Szczesny will make his fifth Premiership start this Saturday at St. James’ Park, the ground where, in October, he marked his arrival with a performance that stood out even as Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 Carling Cup victory.

Since then, the Pole has earned a league debut at Old Trafford and secured two clean sheets, though a third was only deprived by ludicrous officiating against Everton.

In making such rapid progress, the man with a name to make Scrabble enthusiasts quiver has once again struck a blow for the Wenger way of doing things, and the boss should take a great deal of personal pride in the success of his latest development.

Wenger snatched up a 17-year-old Szczesny from the youth ranks at Legia Warsaw back in the summer of 2006, just after the last great Arsenal stopper, Jens Lehmann, had set a record for the longest run without conceding in Champions League history.

Lehmann would go into decline from then and Wenger’s persistence with the calamitous Manuel Almunia and anxious Fabianski would see Arsenal’s problems between the sticks become increasingly pronounced and calls for someone, anyone, to be bought steadily reach cacophony.

For a number of reasons – chief among them Mark Hughes’ obstinacy – Wenger never bit the bullet and, as Szczesny flourishes, the boss’ reluctance to shell out on a big star is looking justified.

Szczesny could well prove himself as important a player for the club as the great symbol of Wenger’s youth-first policy, Cesc Fabregas.

Just as Cesc has the talent to drive games, and turn matches almost single-handedly, the Polish stopper has already shown in extended glimpses that, with a Lehmann-like reach and a way of rushing out that is pure Peter Schmeichel, he can do what all great ‘keepers do – steal points.

Furthermore, while the talk will always be of the captain going ‘home’ to Barcelona, Szczesny is unlikely to be linked to or courted by teams with a greater draw to him than the Gunners.

If things go according to plan, he will be first choice for years to come and calls for expensive new ‘keepers will be a thing of the past.

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  • Mystical Mike

    I like him, he commands his box unlike the other two, don’t get me started on Flapianski, he may have improved but there’s an error in him, usually every 5 or 6 games.

    A good keeper will earn your team points and hopefully we have finally found one!

  • Joshua Fowler

    Szczesny could well embody the future of Arsenal and be a strong, solid final replacement for Lehmann, or even Seaman. His confidence is sky high and we finally have a less diplomatic player who speaks his mind. To see him lift the Carling Cup will only bolster his and the teams confidence and breed success in a team that is barely out of it’s teenage years. Boasting good performances from the keeper, Djourou, Koscielny, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri and, in flashes, Bendtner…the kids are coming good! It’s just a shame we can’t include Van Persie in those kids, firing now, but his early years were blighted. Imagine his status had he been fit for his years at Arsenal.

  • Marc Sibbons

    He looks like a good prospect and certainly a suitable replacement for Lehmann thus far, but he and Arsenal still have a long way to go in the season. One big mistake next week may make Wenger think again. It’s that fragile for keepers nowadays. He has time on his hands at 20 years old, but we can’t judge him just yet. Give him a full season under his belt, and then we will judge.

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