After all the pain we have experienced with our goalkeeping options in the last few years, hands up if you thought we had finally solved them with the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny?
Our 21-year-old stopper certainly has many of the attributes essential for a top class ‘keeper.
His stature, attitude and authority in the box all augur well for the future. But that’s the point – ‘for the future’.
Right now – in the present – he is far from the finished article.
In the North London Derby on Wednesday night he had a real curate’s egg of a performance. Some of his saves were truly outstanding. But he can arguably be blamed for two of the Spuds’ three goals. And the persistent problem with his kicking was again in evidence.
Suffice to say that if Almunia had had that exact same performance, many people would be glossing over the saves and pillorying him for being beaten at his near post and for giving away a penalty when the attacking player was running the ball out of play.
Instead I have seen barely a mention of Wojciech’s performance.
For now, it seems, our young Pole is benefitting from the halo effect of not being Manuel. Most fans are prepared to overlook his mistakes and over-appreciate his saves.
But let’s not forget that Wojciech was at least fifty per cent responsible for giving away the goal that cost us our best chance of silverware this year. And he has made other mistakes since (like handling the ball outside the area) most of which can be put down to inexperience.
So what conclusions should we draw?
For me, it’s that we should feel lucky to have a young prospect who could well turn out to be an Arsenal goalkeeping legend.
But perhaps, for next season, we should not automatically consider him to be our number one Number One. Indeed I would be surprised if Arsene Wenger does not restore Fabianski to the first team role next year, with Szczesny as number two.
I wrote a post about Szczesny way back in January, before the many disappointments that have been visited upon us in the last couple of months. I warned that we were expecting too much of the young man and that he was bound to make errors. I take no pleasure in having been proved right.
It worried me that, when he did inevitably make mistakes, the fans would start to turn on him too, but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.
To conclude – this is NOT an anti-Szczesny piece. I am very hopeful that he will become our true number one in the next 18 months to two years.
But for next season? In all honesty I would like to see us bring in an older, very experienced ‘keeper to do the job until Wojciech is fully ready.
I know I’m a bit of a lone voice on this one and that most Gooners are only too happy to acclaim the lad as the chosen one, but I do feel he will continue to cost us points for a while as he matures into the role.