Poor old Wojciech.
He was so excited about being Poland’s out-and-out Number One as they set out to try and win the Euros on home ground.
Instead he woke up on Saturday morning knowing that his main contribution to the national cause may turn out to be helping to ensure that Poland fail to qualify from the group stages.
Let’s face it, if Poland couldn’t manage to beat a Greek team that would struggle in League Two, their chances of progressing much further are slim indeed.
His nightmare day comprised two huge blunders: first, making an ill-judged lunge for a cross when it was always unlikely he could get there before either his central defender or the Greek forward.
I haven’t seen such a bad case of miscommunication between a goalie and a centre back since… er… oh… Szczesny and Koscielny in the 2011 Carling Cup Final. Whoops.
As if gifting Greece (who were then playing 10 against 11) an equalising goal wasn’t enough, shortly afterwards Szczesny brought down a Greek attacker in the box for a clear penalty and an automatic red card. Our Pole’s blushes were spared slightly by the fact that his replacement saved the penalty. However, Szczesny’s dismissal had taken away Poland’s numerical advantage and was probably instrumental in them subsequently failing to grab a winner.
You have to feel sorry for Wojciech. As he walked off the pitch following his red card he looked to be one consoling word from a team mate away from bursting into tears.
But he only has himself to blame for both incidents and, truth to tell, for those of us who have watched him all year between the sticks for Arsenal, they are not a great surprise.
When Wojciech became first choice ‘keeper at Arsenal some contributors on Arsenal Arsenal took to calling him “World’s Number One.”
Around about that time I wrote a Headline Post here saying: “Right now Wojciech Szczesny is a raw, inexperienced player with bags of promise and the chance of becoming great in the future. A bit like Alex Manninger, Stuart Taylor and Richard Wright before him.
“In his performances for the first team this season he has been good but far from exceptional, which is entirely as you would expect for a 20-year-old making his inaugural steps in the top flight. All of which makes the fashionable hysteria about his talents premature, not to say ridiculous.”
I’m not trying to say “I told you so” because in that same article I argued that we should promote Fabianski and keep Szczesny as second choice – a suggestion I’m glad M. Wenger ignored.
But the fact is that Szczesny made many mistakes in his first season as Arsenal’s number one and his blunders for the national team are in keeping with the poorer aspects of his ‘keeping for us: namely, impetuosity; miscommunication and poor concentration.
So does all this mean we should reconsider his position at Arsenal? That we should bring in a Premier League veteran for a year or two until Wojciech has matured?
I would like to hear your views, but mine is this:
On no account should we remove him as our Number One.
For all his shortcomings, Szczesny has shown enough bravery, character and shot-stopping prowess to suggest that he can grow into a goalkeeper to rival legends like Jennings, Seaman, Wilson and Lehmann.
All he needs is age and experience. Age will take care of itself, but his experience will progress more rapidly if he plays every first team game (which, in turn, will end up making his “game age” greater than his birth age).
Even experiences like Friday’s will help make him a better ‘keeper.
In our forthcoming 2012-13 season I have no doubt that Szczesny’s faults will cost us points on occasion. But his strengths will win us points and his contribution to the team’s character cannot be overlooked.
Over to you.