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Thoughts on the Goalkeeping Situation with Cech’s Imminent Arrival

At this point in time, Arsenal has three first team goalkeepers. The first choice goalie is currently in Chile, fighting with his countrymen for South America’s coveted international price, the Copa America. He conceded a goal in his first game which also ended in a loss but he kept a clean sheet in a game you’d have put your smart money for him to concede in, the World Cup semifinalists and favorites to win the tournament, Brazil. With four points in the bag, David Ospina and co. would be hoping to win Peru to seal a place in the last eight.

Arsenal’s second choice goalie, Wojciech Szczesny, started his holiday earlier than expected, as he watched from the bench as Lukasz Fabianski kept in Poland’s recent matches. Fabianski left Arsenal in search of first team football and found it in Swansea, and he can be proud of the consistent performances he put for the Swans all season long.

The third choice goalie, Emiliano Martinez, enjoyed a good loan spell at Rotherham, and he’d be hoping to go out on loan again to continue his football education.

Arsene Wenger was asked by the pressers if he was interested in signing want-away goalie, Petr Cech, but his response was that he has ‘three world class’ goalies. Tomas Rosicky has been doing some ambassadorial duties and when he put up a picture of him and Cech on Instagram with the caption ‘Welcome come to Arsenal’, it seemed that he’s probably aware that the background stuff is almost over and the move is imminent. Even that ex-Gunner that looks like Akon, Lauren Etame-Mayer tweeted about Cech’s arrival using his official Twitter account.

So it’s only a matter of time before the Cech deal becomes official. The question is, what’s going to happen with the current crop at the club. Cech, 33, is a vastly experienced goalie that has won several individual and team awards in his 10 years at Chelsea, and with his talismanic services available at Arsenal’s disposal, I’d expect him to be Arsene Wenger’s first choice in the Premier League and Champions League.

Martinez would drop to fourth choice and I’m pretty certain that he’d request for a loan move, which I believe will be granted to him. What then happens for Szczesny and Ospina? The Colombian had to wait patiently for six months before usurping Szczesny in January and he played 20 games between January and May, keeping 10 clean sheets, as well as getting the highest win percentage and save percentage for all the goalies in the league. Some say that it was his small amount of games that contributed to those stats but they didn’t really matter to me because from an Arsenal perspective, Ospina offered a calm head to Szczesny’s brashness, and the defense coped better this season with Ospina behind them than Szczesny.

Somebody else would bring up a point that Szczesny played behind of a makeshift defense, while Ospina played behind our regular back four, which in fairness, can be a very valid point, but nobody played in a more tattered defense like David de Gea and he was still selected as the best goalkeeper in the League last season. Szczesny had seen the likes of Vito Mannone, Manuel Almunia and Fabianski flushed away for him and starting the season ahead of Ospina made him even more cocky, because he clearly felt that he was the undisputed No. 1 at the club, till Southampton happened.

With Cech arriving, either Szczesny or Ospina might be sacrificed on the altar and from all indications, it’s looking like we might miss hearing those iconic ‘Ooooooooooooooooospina’ chants as its been reported that Fenerbahce are interested in his services. Szczesny is young and he has a lot of potential but Wenger would probably want him to understudy Cech for the next three to four seasons, before making the No. 1 his for keeps. Off the field, Szczesny is a homegrown talent and is an Arsenal fan, and I’m sure he’d do okay in the cup games he’d probably be featuring in.

It would feel sad to let Ospina go when he has fought quite hard to gain his place but football is a very cruel sport and if you spend up to £11-14m to bring in a goalie of Petr Cech’s quality, you’d have to play him consistently.

Sayonara

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Rating Arsenal’s Goalkeepers’ Performances in the 2014/15 Season

From a goalkeeping perspective, Arsenal began the 2014/15 campaign with the sale of Lukasz Fabianski to Swansea. He made 78 appearances in the course of seven seasons for the Gunners and when he realized that he couldn’t usurp his compatriot, Wojciech Szczesny, a move away seemed like a plausible move. The Gunners replaced the departed goalie with Colombian shot stopper, David Ospina, that had a good World Cup by his fair standards. As the season progressed, injuries paved the way for young Emiliano Martinez to get a run out.

Gooner Daily analyses the performances of the three goalies.

Wojciech Szczesny (27 appearances, six clean sheets)

With Fabianski gone, Szczesny was the undisputed No. 1 for Arsenal at the start of the season and he kept his first set of clean sheets in the Champions League playoff fixtures against Besiktas. Despite winning the Premier League Golden Glove in the previous season, Szczesny had to wait till late October to keep his first clean sheet in the Premier League when the Gunners visited Sunderland. Earlier in the campaign, his rash challenge on Burak Yilmaz earned him a red card which made David Ospina have his official debut for the club.

Szczesny will not remember this season fondly, especially after his horror show against Southampton on New Year’s day.

The goalie endured a horror outing at St. Mary’s and was caught smoking in the dressing room after the game which obviously incensed his manager and ultimately cost him his place in the first team. With Ospina featuring consistently in the Premier League, Szczesny became the ‘Cup keeper’ and started in Arsenal’s FA Cup wins over Brighton, Middlesbrough, Manchester United and Reading. He’s odds on to start in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa this weekend and I hope he puts up a better performance than the one he put up in the semis.

Rating – 6/10

Emiliano Martinez (six appearances, two clean sheets)

Young Emiliano Martinez joined the Gunners in 2010 but after featuring consistently from the Reserves, he got his big break this season when injuries to Szczesny and Ospina paved the way for him. He made his Arsenal debut in the Champions League win over Anderlecht and featured in the Premier League for the first time when Szczesny clashed with Kieran Gibbs in the home defeat to Manchester United.

With Szczesny set to be sidelined for a couple of weeks with Ospina still nursing an injury, Martinez was to have an extended run out in Arsenal’s goal. So much was made about him in the buildup to Arsenal’s clash with Dortmund but the young Argentinian but up a virtuoso performance against Juergen Klopp’s men, keeping a clean sheet in the process. He went on to keep consecutive clean sheets against West Brom and Southampton before struggling in the away defeat to Stoke.

That turned out to be his last appearance for the team before he was farmed out on loan to Rotherham United. A good breakthrough season for the young lad.

Rating – 7/10

David Ospina (20 appearances, 10 clean sheets)

Featuring in a World Cup will always put you under the spotlight and while James Rodriguez set the stage on fire with his breathtaking performances, a certain David Ospina looked very assured at the back till their quarterfinal loss to Brazil. He had made 196 appearances in six seasons for OGC Nice and when I heard that he was coming to Arsenal, I was hoping that he’d be a better competition to Szczesny as the likes of Manuel Almunia, Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski had all fallen on the road side when challenging the big Pole.

Ospina had injury problems to contend with and was given enough time to heal his wounds. Following Szczesny’s dismal night at Southampton, Wenger promoted Ospina to the first team and he never looked back. Three clean sheets in his first four games was helpful to his course then the fans came up with a brilliant chant that should inspire the goalie. Anytime the Colombian wants to punt a dead ball, the Gooners scream his name which was a reminder of how fans can make players settle quickly.

Some say playing with a balanced back four helped his cause but since Ospina took over from Szczesny, he has been very assured and the defenders trust him. It’s going to be interesting to see how their battle for first team places intensifies next season.

Rating – 8/10

I’d discuss about the defender’s performances tomorrow.

Sayonara.

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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.

Sayonara.

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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.

Sayonara.

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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.

Sayonara.

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