Rating Arsenal’s Goalkeepers in the 2013/14 Season
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.
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.
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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