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Updates on Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szczesny’s Injuries

Jack Wilshere suffered an injury against Manchester United but it is not thought to be serious

When I was young, I witnessed my younger brother suffer an ankle injury that saw him use clutches for a couple of months. It was even more saddening to know that he suffered the injury while playing for his school team, and I doubt if any scouts were even watching. I can vividly remember the excruciating and agonizing pains he suffered when the ankle hit somewhere but after undergoing therapy, he did well to fix up the ankle… then he went back to playing football again

When Jack Wilshere suffered the same fate following a collision with Chris Smalling, I was deeply concerned for the lad especially after seeing him signal to the bench showing that all wasn’t well. But as the fighter he is, he stayed on the pitch for a couple of minutes before the manager replaced him. Yes, many Arsenal fans would be right to be unhappy at his horrendous miss, especially when Alexis Sanchez was clearly unmarked but Wilshere’s health should be a key concern for everyone connected with the club because he has been one of the bright sparks of a relatively dark season.

He has had his frustrating moments as well as his good ones but Wilshere is one player that would give you 110% in every game. He needs to work on his temperament because he could easily have seen red for his head butt on Marouane Fellaini but in the heat of the moment, you should expect such a player to keep his cool. If he attempted the same nudge on a bloke like Sergio Busquets for instance, I’m sure you all know what would have happened next.

For starters, Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Wilshere has a ‘little chance’ of playing against Borussia Dortmund tomorrow and he also raised his doubts on Wojciech Szczesny’s participation as well. According to the Telegraph, their injuries aren’t long-term as well. Thank goodness. Wilshere had an initial scan after the game and it was revealed that he didn’t suffer any major injury and he was seen leaving the Emirates without any crutches or protective footwear. However, the initial prognosis seems to be a soft tissue ankle sprain but it’s stated that his ankle will be accessed again when the swelling subsides.

Wilshere is a player that has had his fair share of injuries worries and many Arsenal fans can also remember how he missed out on the beautiful game for the best part of 14 months following a stress fracture to this ankle in the Emirates Cup clash against Boca Juniors. Even if he returns from injury, his current style of play would still make him a target for some rash challenges that will only end injuring him yet again. Wilshere tends to dwell on the ball far too long at Arsenal but when he’s donning the White of England, he’s a completely different beast. With four consecutive Man of the Match awards for the National team, Wilshere has been on the spotlight for all the right reasons and in England’s last game against Scotland, he provided a neat assist for his fellow Gunner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Szczesny on the other hand, looked very uncomfortable following his clash with Kieran Gibbs and it was in his best interests to replace him with the inexperienced lad, Emiliano Martinez. The young goalie might have done better not to commit himself when he came off his line to challenge Wayne Rooney but the real question we should be asking is where the f*ck did Per Mertesacker go? What was he thinking allowing Nacho Monreal, a make-shift center back, to be all on his own against the Angel and Shrek?

Szczesny has a high chance on missing the all-important clash against Dortmund and with David Ospina still injured, Martinez maybe on the cards to make another Champions League appearance. Let’s just hope that he’d be offered better protection from those in front of him.

I’d keep you posted on their injury updates as the days go by.


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Szczesny on Fire as Poland Humbles the World Champions

Germany's World Cup winners, including Mats Hummels, are dejected after the final whistle is blown in Warsaw

Germany has lost a qualifier for the first time in seven years

International football usually comes to life in the main tournaments but qualifiers serve as the gateway to the fiestas that take place in the summer, or harmattan period (winter) for those concerned with African football. Speaking of African football, I watched in anguish as my Nigeria faltered yet again at the hands of minnows, Sudan, the whooping boys of the group and with South Africa edging out Congo Brazzaville in the earlier fixture, Nigeria finds themselves in a very precarious situation.

The Gunners have been on international duty and with Mesut Ozil out injured as well as some concerns over Laurent Koscielny’s fitness, I was hoping that there’d be no more injuries for the players yet to feature for their nations. In the first phase of international fixtures, Arsenal had an impact in the England vs. San Marino game as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided an assist for Danny Welbeck and there was also time for Calum Chambers to get his full debut. Tomas Rosicky starred for the Czech Republic as they came from behind to defeat Turkey while Santi Cazorla had a handful of minutes in Spain’s shock loss to Slovakia. In the Americas, Alexis Sanchez created an assist in Chile’s victory over Peru while Joel Campbell and David Ospina spent all their time in the dugout.

The star match of the night was watching the world champions, Germany, take center stage against a Poland side led by Robert Lewandowski. From an Arsenal perspective, Wojciech Szczesny was the custodian between the sticks for his nation. As expected, Germany had more household names than the Poles with the likes of Manuel Neuer in goal, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in the heart of the defense, Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle in midfield and Thomas Mueller spearheading the attack.

Right from the onset, Germany set the tone for the game as Mueller fired a shot that was saved by Szczesny in goal. This was the first of 29 shots that the Germans managed to fire in the course of the game. Lewandowski believed that he was fouled by Antonio Rudiger but his appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears. The Germans almost had the lead when Christoph Kramer’s cross was fired wide by debutant, Karim Bellarabi. The German wave of pressure continued as Schurrle found Mueller clear on goal but his finish didn’t match the buildup. Bellarabi had another sniff at goal afterwards but Szczesny was on hand to make a good save.

Bellarabi came close to scoring past Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny before half time

Against the run of play, Lukasz Piszczek surged down the right and swung a cross that was meant to be easy pickings for Neuer but Arkadiusz Milik responded faster than the German goalie to nick the ball past him with a glancing header that sent the Narodowy Stadium into raptures.

Milik gets between Germany keeper Manuel Neuer and Boateng (R) to score at the beginning of the second half

From the restart, Germany attacked Poland with Gotze firing a goal-bound shot that was parried by Szczesny but the home side responded as Kamil Grosicki surged past two German defenders before blasting a shot that was saved by Neuer. Hummels headed a corner wide and Bellarabi had another shot that was saved by Szczesny. At that moment, the Germans were wondering what they needed to get past the Arsenal keeper.

With 13 minutes to go, Joachim Loew summoned the services of Lukas Podolski that almost made an instant impact as he smashed Szczesny’s crossbar with his evil left foot before Gotze fired the ball over the bar. The Poles struck the killer blow when Lewandowski selflessly found an Sebastian Mila that steered his shot past Neuer to put the game beyond doubt.

This was the first time the Germans lost a qualifier since their defeat to Czech Republic as far back as 2007. That’s goes to show how consistent the nation has been down the years. It’s more or less a set back and I believe that the Germans would get back on track but from an Arsenal perspective, it was good to see Szczesny getting the plaudits for a great performance and I hope he builds on it.


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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.

Feel free to share your comments.

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.


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New Offer for Sagna, Selfies and Post-Tottenham Ramblings


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’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.


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.


Bonus Reading: No. 1 Completes a Ton –

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