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Rating Arsenal’s Goalkeepers in the 2013/14 Season

Szczesny had a great campaign by his standards

Many Arsenal fans can say that defending improved considerably in the 2013/14 season and while the defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny did their bit in the heart of the defense, the Gunners last line of defense, the custodians between the sticks, played in vital role in helping their team’s cause this season.

Over the course of the 2013/14 season, Arsene Wenger clearly favored Wojciech Szczesny for his Premier League and Champions League games while Lukasz Fabianski was the man for the domestic Cup competitions. Like last season, Gooner Daily has decided to launch four articles that would be focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2013/14 campaign but today’s post is entirely focused on Arsenal’s goalkeepers.

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Wojciech Szczesny – 46 Apps, 21 Clean Sheets

After keeping 13 clean sheets from 33 appearances in the 2012/13 season, everybody expected great things from Szczesny but his season started on a shaky note in Arsenal’s opening day 3-1 reverse to Aston Villa. He conceded a penalty after a blatant foul on Gabby Agbonlahor and a bad day almost went worse when he was found in No Man’s Land but Westwood failed to capitalize on his error. However, he responded to that gaffe by keeping three clean sheets in his next four games.

9644365175 3131799ddb o GIF: Wojciech Szczesny makes a brilliant save to deny a deflected Jermain Defoe effort

After conceding a couple of goals in October, Szczesny went on to have a great November as he conceded just one goal in six matches. There was a moment of concern for the goalie at Old Trafford when he clashed heads with Phil Jones but the manager allowed him to complete the game. In the previous week, Andre Villas-Boas came under heavy criticism for allowing Hugo Lloris finish the game when he was clearly concussed.

The club rewarded his fine form with a long-term contract and there was even time for the goalie to keep his 50th clean sheet in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Olympique Marseille. Szczesny’s floodgates opened at the Etihad Stadium as he shipped in six goals but he responded admirably with four clean sheets in his next six games.

The goalie ended 2013 with a clean sheet and began 2014 with two clean sheets but when he and his teammates arrived at Anfield, they were in for a massive drubbing in the hands of Liverpool. Szczesny reached his nadir when he was sent off against Bayern Munich in the First Knockout Round fixture but things went really sour for the goalie when Chelsea shipped in six goals past him.

At the tail end of the campaign, Szczesny kept four more clean sheets in the Premier League that tied him with Petr Cech and many thought that with the Czech goalie out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, the Pole would usurp him for the Golden Gloves. On the final matchday of the season, I’m pretty sure that Szczesny was surprised to see himself on the bench as Fabianski kept the clean sheet that was probably meant for him.

Notwithstanding, sealing 21 clean sheets in 46 games was an outstanding achievement by Arsenal’s young goalie. I still believe that his best years are ahead of him.

Rating – 7/10

Lukasz Fabianski – 11 Apps, Three Clean Sheets

With each splendid Szczesny performance, I’m pretty sure that Fabianski would have let in fits of frustration because he would have liked to be out there making the saves that would make the fans sing his songs aloud. Wenger afforded him that opportunity in the Cup competitions and it was something he grabbed with both hands.

With Arsneal knocked out early from the Capital One Cup, Fabianski had to wait till the turn of the New Year to feature in the FA Cup third round against Tottenham where he kept his first clean sheet of the season. Another clean sheet was yielded in the FA Cup fourth round against Coventry but Fabianski went into Arsenal folklore this season after his penalty-saving heroics against Wigan.

Wenger had stated that he was going to play Fabianski in the FA Cup final despite the fact that his footballing future was elsewhere. In the manager’s bid to get the goalie fully fit for the season, he gave him a surprise starting place ahead of Szczesny in the final game of the season, which saw Fabianski keep a clean sheet in the only league match he played.

Fabianski was blameless in the goals he conceded at Wembley but late on he inexplicably chose to charge down at Sone Aluko and the Nigerian left him for dead but Kieran Gibbs was on hand to clear the ball off the line.

Even though, Fabianski is set to leave the Emirates, at least, he’d have the mindset that he left the club as an FA Cup champion and he can congratulate himself for the role he played on the Gunners road to glory.

Rating – 7/10

Emiliano Viviano – No App, No Clean Sheet

In this life, I’ve seen Wenger make some awesome signings as well as the puzzling Park Chu Young-Mikael Silvestre-Amaury Bischoff-esque signings but one must wonder how Viviano flew all the way from Italy to waste an entire year doing nothing but basking the London sunshine.

Video Poster

Spent time taking photos rather than playing

In Wenger’s defense, he probably thought about the 2010/11 campaign when Fabianski suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and Szczesny ruptured his finger tendon but with Manuel Almunia putting up more erratic performances, Arsenal had to coax Mad Jens Lehmann from retirement to play against Blackpool.

Viviano was certainly a contingency plan in the wake of an injury crisis, but unfortunately, he was never given the chance to prove himself to the Emirates faithful.

Rating – N/A

So there you have it, the first of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the defense comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2013/14 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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New Offer for Sagna, Selfies and Post-Tottenham Ramblings

image

Last weekend, the title race took a new twist as Chelsea dropped some points while the chasing pack behind the all gained crucial victories as Manchester City eased past Hull with 10 men, Liverpool added more misery to David Moyes and the folks at Old Trafford and Arsenal got that crucial win over Tottenham.

In the wake of the victory, Arsenal’s derby hero, Tomas Rosicky, has been on the news lately, stating that Arsenal are gonna ignore their doubters and he can score more “big goals” for the club,

I am not a big goal-scorer but I can score big goals. I would like to get on the score-sheet more but for me it’s not easy.
“The team is more important so even if someone else scored I would be glad as long as we won the game. It means a lot because it is a derby and everyone knows how the fans feel about games like that so it is a great win.
“Defensively we were very good but we have to improve offensively if we want to win the league.”

It’s worth noting that Rosicky steps up for the Gunners in big games and he scored a brilliant solo effort when both North London rivals locked horns in January.

Elsewhere, Kieran Gibbs spoke about the teams ‘character’ and stated that it could lead the team to success this season. The collective defensive performance at White Hart Lane was exemplary and kudos must go to the Mertesielny combination for another amazing outings in the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Mertesacker had an amazing 20 clearances which would go down as one of the highest in a game.

You can’t speak about Sunday’s North London derby without talking about THAT SELFIE. Arsenal’s No. 1 shot stopper, Wojciech Szczesny, has taken out some time to talk about his selfie with some teammates that have become an Internet phenomenon among Arsenal fans.

Szczesny has stated that he wanted to pay the fans back for that awesome support in the NLD,

“I asked Paul Johnson [our equipment manager] to bring my phone on to the pitch after the game and grabbed a selfie with the Arsenal fans, which was brilliant,” Szczesny told Arsenal Player.

“They were fantastic all afternoon. They sang their hearts out and I am sure they enjoyed themselves. It was fantastic for us too and we wanted to give something back to them.”

As for the game itself, Szczesny accepts Arsenal were under pressure for long periods but he paid testament to the defence that protected him.

“It has been that way away from home sometimes,” he said. “We concentrated on defending.”They did not create any chances and the only one they did have [from Nacer Chadli] I pretty much gifted them.

“We were fantastic defensively. We scored early so they were always going to dominate the possession. But the two centre backs were outstanding then Thomas Vermaelen came on and we played with three centre back. He did well as well.”

“Overall it was a huge win for us. We knew that Chelsea had dropped points against Villa and we have to take advantage of that. It was very pleasing to get a win at White Hart Lane after quite a few years.”

The feeling of winning in a ground that has been a thorn in the flesh is heartwarming and I can only imagine how the players would celebrate winning Chelsea in Stamford Bridge. That would also be Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game for the club and it would be iconic. I wonder when his own statue would come up.

Finally, there’s an update concerning the Bacary Sagna contract saga and Goal.com’s Wayne Versey, has reported that the Gunners are set to offer the French full-back an improved offer.

“@wayneversey: Arsenal make Sagna improved contract offer – £75,000-a-week, 2-year deal with option of 3rd year. #AFC”

This would seem like the Gunners last stand with the French star and I hope he agrees to these new terms even if it’s believed that he might have bigger offers elsewhere.

I’ll keep you posted on the contract situation.

Sayonara.

A Look-back on Szczesny’s Career as he Reaches 100 Premier League Apps

Wojciech Szczesny saves Anderson's shot during Arsenal's loss to Manchester United

Where it all began…

It all began with a League debut at Old Trafford in December 2010, following mysterious injuries to Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski. After a few Carling Cup appearances, it was time for a young Polish goalie to make his first Premier League appearance, aged 20, in the biggest of stages – away to Manchester United. Arsenal lost the game through a solitary goal but the young lad had announced himself to the world, and he was tipped for greater things.

He continued to improve with each passing game but the lowest point in his fledgling career arrived at Wembley in the 2011 Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Birmingham City. The Gunners had defeated the relegation-bound outfit home and away, so it was meant to be a stroll in the park but we all know how that game panned out.

Arsenal faces anxious wait over Robin van Persie's fitness as 'destroyed' duo apology for Carling Cup error

Arsenal’s misery was compounded when Szczesny suffered a finger injury from a Dani Alves free kick in the Champions League encounter against Barcelona but the game will be remembered for more reasons than one. At the start of the 2011/12 campaign, Szczesny changed his jersey number from No. 53 to the jersey vacated by Aliaksandr Hleb.

Szczesny continued to progress and in the 2011/12 season, his penalty save against Udinese aided the Gunners in their qualification from the playoffs to the Group Stages. That season, Szczesny was ever-present for the Gunners making 49 appearances and it’s also worth noting that he played every league game for the club. He made a lot of outstanding saves that season and I can’t think of any save better than the one he made against Wolves in April 2012.

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected of the young Pole working his way up the food chain. He began the 2012/13 campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a howler against Southampton. He went on to make more complacent performances and his form waned.

He got a wake up call when Wenger dropped him to the bench against Bayern Munich and the fact that his father blasted the boss for his poor form didn’t help his cause. A rib injury to Fabianski allowed the younger Pole to return to first-team action and this saw a change in his fortunes as Szczesny kept clean sheets in the run-in for a third placed finish.

The graphic illustration below (culled from 7am Kick Off) shows a comparison of Szczesny with other top keepers in the Premier League last season.

Comparison of Arsenal 5 most-likely keeper signings

Despite the fact that the club was linked heavily with Julio Cesar this summer, Wenger kept his faith with Szczesny. The Pole had a shaky start to the new campaign with a torrid performance against Aston Villa but he responded superbly with three clean sheets in the next four games which included a superb performance in the North London Derby. Even though Giroud will be remembered fondly for his deft finish, Szczesny improvised save from Jermaine Defoe was the stuff of legends.

9644365175 3131799ddb o GIF: Wojciech Szczesny makes a brilliant save to deny a deflected Jermain Defoe effort

Szczesny continued his fine form as the season progressed and his magnificent save from Mila Jedinak against Crystal Palaceturned out to be the difference between a victory and a draw, as Giroud sealed the points late on.

When the Gunners hosted Fulham, Wojciech Szczesny became the fourth Arsenal goalkeeper to make a century of Premier League appearances, marking the occasion with a clean sheet.

The Pole is the 43rd player overall to reach 100 Premier League outings for the Club, and joins David Seaman (325), Jens Lehmann (148) and Manuel Almunia (109) as the other goalkeepers on the list. Since his Premier League debut in 2010, Szczesny has amassed up to 9,000 minutes of first-team football.

According to stats king, Opta stats, Szczesny has a 70.5 save percentage from shots faced in the Premier League – broken down to 59.2 per cent for shots in the area and 86.9 per cent for shots from outside the box. He has made 113 catches, 64 punches and just seven drops. He has saved four out of 17 penalties faced.

Only Ali Al-Habsi has faced more penalties than Szczesny in the same time frame (21) and only Joe Hart has kept more clean sheets (but has played 12 more games). He has also amassed 39 clean sheets in the 100 league appearances he has made with 10 of these clean sheet coming this season.

Despite the fact that the Pole has shown vast improvement in concentration and shot stopping, Szczesny sits behind a defense that seems incredibly hard to play through. Koscielny and Mertesacker have been a brilliant central defensive pairing this season and Szczesny has benefited from their defensive output. While Koscielny remains the hot head that anticipates the ball and uses his pace like a cover, BFG sweeps things at the back and his calmness, composure, height and coordination has been very vital for the Gunners this season.

The Pole recently signed a new long-term deal with the club and despite being just 23 years of age, he has already professed his desire to finish his career with the club. Szczesny has made a lot of saves this season and his distribution has also improved but we all know that he’s not a finished article yet, and his best years are well ahead of him.

However, Gunners can sleep well at night knowing that there’s a reliable custodian between the sticks.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: No. 1 Completes a Ton – Arsenal.com

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A Tribute to Wojciech Szczesny: Arsenal’s Unsung Hero

(Photo: Reuters)<br>Szczesny has kept 17 clean sheets in 43 appearances so far in his debut season as Arsenal's No.1

There’s something really exciting about this current Arsenal team.

With 12 games gone in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger’s side sits four points clear at the top, with the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea on the prowl. In the Champions League, the Gunners have amassed 12 points from five games, with the match against SSC Napoli in a fortnight going to be a decider of their European destiny.

A lot can be attributed to Arsenal’s good form in the Premier League and Europe – Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere currently lead the club’s scoring charts, the acquisition of Mesut Ozil has been a massive lift, and he has even notched up half a dozen assists, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta have doing their dirty work superbly and of course, the defensive quartet of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna have been in phenomenal form.

Despite the fact that the outfield players are getting all the plaudits they duly deserve, there has been a player that has been a model of consistency throughout the campaign and like fine wine, he’s getting better with each passing game. It all began with a League debut at Old Trafford in December 2010, following mysterious injuries to Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.

Since then, Wojciech Szczesny has been on a steep learning curve and with more games under his belt at such a young age, he continued to flourish even though he had some bad times along the way. His nadir at Arsenal came in the biggest of stages – the 2011 Carling Cup final against Birmingham City where a lack of communication between him and Koscielny led to an easy chance for Obafemi Martins that wasted no time in punishing the Gunners.

Arsenal faces anxious wait over Robin van Persie's fitness as 'destroyed' duo apology for Carling Cup error

Just when everyone thought that Arsenal’s long wait for a trophy was finally over, a new signing and a young goalie joined forces to shatter the hopes of the expectant fans. The club had already defeated Birmingham twice in the Premier League, so the game was meant to be a stroll in the park. The poor form continued afterwards with the Gunners knocked out from the Champions League by Barcelona and the FA Cup by Manchester United.

Despite that setback, Szczesny continued to progress and in the 2011/12 season, his penalty save against Udinese aided the Gunners in their qualification from the playoffs to the Group Stages. That season, Szczesny was ever-present for the Gunners making 49 appearances and it’s also worth noting that he played every league game for the club. He made a lot of outstanding saves that season and I can’t think of any save better than the one he made against Wolves in April 2012.

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected of the young Pole working his way up the food chain. He began the 2012/13 campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a howler against Southampton.

Even after his errors coupled with fairly average performances from his deputy, Vito Mannone, Wenger returned Szczesny into the team and even used him in domestic cup fixtures, clearly showing that he had little or no faith in the deputy Italian. This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

He got a wake up call when Wenger dropped him to the bench against Bayern Munich (away) and the fact that his father blasted the boss for his poor form didn’t help his cause. A rib injury to Fabianski allowed the younger Pole to return to first-team action and this saw a change in his fortunes as Szczesny kept clean sheets against Everton (home), Fulham (away), Queens Park Rangers (away) and Newcastle (away).

While he may want to forget his antics against Southampton (home) and Aston Villa (home), he can look back with pride when he reflects on his performance against Sunderland (away) as well those vital saves he made against Queens Park Rangers (away) and Wigan (home).

The graphic illustration below (culled from 7am Kick Off) shows a comparison of Szczesny with other top keepers in the Premier League last season.

Comparison of Arsenal 5 most-likely keeper signings

Julio Cesar played a game less than Szczesny because Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry Red Napkin alternated between the Brazilian shot stopper and Robert Green but Szczesny missed a couple of games through injury as well as that period in Spring when he was dropped for his compatriot, Fabianski. Julio Cesar, Simon Mignolet and Asmir Begovic understandably made more saves than Szczesny due to the quality of sefenders in front of them.

Arsenal was heavily linked with a move for Julio Cesar in the summer following his impressive performances in the 2013 Confederations Cup but nothing concrete has come to fruition as Wenger placed his faith in Szczesny and this season, the goalkeeper has been transformed to one of the finest goalies in the business.

Szczesny had a shaky start to the new campaign with a torrid performance against Aston Villa but he responded superbly with three clean sheets in the next four games which included a superb performance in the North London Derby. Even though Giroud will be remembered fondly for his deft finish, Szczesny improvised save from Jermaine Defoe was the stuff of legends.

9644365175 3131799ddb o GIF: Wojciech Szczesny makes a brilliant save to deny a deflected Jermain Defoe effort

Szczesny continued his fine form as the season progressed and his magnificent save from Mila Jedinak against Crystal Palaceturned out to be the difference between a victory and a draw, as Giroud sealed the points late on.

iZRRkiDyVH9mR Wojciech Szczęsnys amazing save from Mile Jedinak in Arsenals win at Palace [GIF]

Had that shot went in, the Eagles would have leveled the tie and the Gunners playing with 10 men that odds wouldn’t have been in their favor. November is usually regarded as a bogey month for the Gunners, yet Szczesny has kept four clean sheets in his last five games which include Liverpool, Dortmund (away), Southampton and Olymique Marseille.

Despite the fact that the Pole has shown vast improvement in concentration and shot stopping, Szczesny sits behind a defense that seems incredibly hard to play through. Koscielny and Mertesacker have been a brilliant central defensive pairing this season and Szczesny has benefited from their defensive output. While Koscielny remains the hot head that anticipates the ball and uses his pace like a cover, BFG sweeps things at the back and his calmness, composure, height and coordination has been very vital for the Gunners this season.

The Pole recently signed a new long-term deal with the club and despite being just 23 years of age, he has already professed his desire to finish his career with the club. Szczesny has made a lot of saves this season and his distribution has also improved but we all know that he’s not a finished article yet, and his best years are well ahead of him.

However, Gunners can sleep well at night knowing that there’s a reliable custodian between the sticks.

Arsenal’s unsung hero.

Wojciech Tomasz Szczesny.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: Is Szczesny the Best Goalkeeper in the Premier League? – 7am Kick Off

Canon Crested Arsenal Fan of the Week @enigma106 – Canon Crested

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Latest Injury Updates, Fabregas Speaks and Szczesny Refuses Contract?

Old things have passed away. Everything has become new

The dust following the narrow loss to Borussia Dortmund has finally settled and all focus is firmly fixed on getting back to winning ways against Crystal Palace in the Saturday lunch fixture. Arsenal comes up against a side devoid of its manager and word on the street is that the dreadful Tony Pulis has been touted as the media favorite to get the job.

With the Gunners still without some of its key personnel, there’s a concern for Jack Wilshere as he’s suffering from an ankle injury and he may be rested for the game against Crystal Palace. Theo Walcott is still a couple of weeks away, Abou Diaby is out for all eternity, Yaya Sanogo is still suffering from a back strain, Lukas Podolski is recuperating slowly from his hamstring injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still recovering slowly from the nasty knee injury he suffered on the opening fixture of the season.

In this ever-increasing injury list, the only player that would be assured of a first-team berth will certainly be Theo Walcott but as Arsenal Arsenal asked, how will the Ox get back into this side?

In the absence of Walcott and his natural replacement, the Ox, Arsene Wenger has fielded Serge Gnabry on the right wing and you’d expect the youngster to get a run-out in the upcoming Capital One Cup fourth round fixture against Chelsea. In other games when experience was needed, Wenger has fielded Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey in the position.

Speaking of Ramsey, the Welsh dragon has been on the spotlight not for his charming looks, amazing work rate or scintillating goal haul, but due to the fact that he has received praise from his former teammate, Francesc Fabregas.

The team was built around Fabregas when Ramsey joined the club in 2008, but the Spanish midfield maestro stated in an interview with the Guardian that he feels he dented Ramsey’s progress while they played together at Arsenal,

“I watch the way Ramsey is playing now, how he looks so liberated, and I think maybe I blocked his way. Maybe I was an obstacle. Sometimes you need someone to leave for you to step forward and say: ‘I’m here.’”

“Ramsey is one of those that you look at and think: ‘He doesn’t stand out in any specific quality, but he does everything, everything, well.’ His touch is good, his movement’s good, now he’s scoring goals too, providing assists.”

After Fabregas departed to join Barcelona, Wenger tasked Ramsey with the enormous job of being Arsenal’s creative hub but he struggled for form, making him a lightning rod for vitriol and abuse. The transition wasn’t easy as Rosicky, another creative outlet, spent a lot of time injured and with $amir Na$ri enjoying the petro-greens of Manchester City, Robin van Persie had to fashion some goals all by himself in what proved to be his last season with the club.

Ramsey’s progress has been steep and it can only get better for the Welsh Dragon and with nine goals already to his name this campaign, more will be expected of the midfielder and as he has shown this season, he’s ready to step up for the good of the team.

Fabregas also professed his hopes of returning to the club in the future (as he always does) but he also took some time out to laud Arsenal’s new creator-in-chief, Mesut Ozil, stating that the German schemer will bring the best out of Ramsey, Wilshere and Arsenal at large. Since Fabregas left, the Gunners lacked that cutting edge from midfield and it came back in the form of Santi Cazorla. Having Ozil alongside the diminutive Spanish magician is one hell of a mouthwatering prospect.

Finally, there’s some ongoing speculation (via Gooner Head) that Arsenal’s shot stopper, Wojciech Szczesny, has refused to sign a new deal with the club. After a rib injury to Lukasz Fabianski paved the way for the Pole to return to the side, he has been on good form and he carried it into the new campaign keeping six clean sheets thus far this season.

Szczesny saving Antonio di Natale’s penalty in 2011

But unlike Bacary Sagna whose contract expires this summer, Szczesny would have a year left in his contract this summer and it seems as if the Arsenal hierarchy has learned from the transfer shenanigans caused by Robin van Persie, Gael Clichy and $amir Na$ri when they had one year left on their respective contract and the Gunners are keen to avoid another summer of turmoil by swooping early to make Szczesny sign a new deal.

Apparantly, it is believed that Szczesny wants pay parity with the top dogs in the club but his agent has denied these claims. Szczesny has been at the club since 2006 and he’s just 23 so his best years are well ahead of him.

For everyone’s sake, I hope he remains at Arsenal.

Sayonara.

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