Thoughts on Szczesny, His Shades at Arsenal, and the Goalkeeping Situation

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Hindsight, they say, is usually crystal clear. We as football fans want the very best for Arsenal football club, and that includes the players, the manager and everything in general. But with this club, you don’t even know what to expect. One minute, the club is going on a four game winning streak in the league, next minute, they are struggling to break down a Watford side and eventually get beaten.

I used to really love writing about Arsenal everyday. Heck, I even called my blog ‘Gooner Daily’. I’ve ran the blog for seven years and I’ve published over 1,600 articles on this site, but in recent times the zeal to write about the club I love so much has somewhat diminished. Maybe it’s because of work, because that takes a lot from me, maybe it’s because I don’t have a deputy to hold the fort for me when I’m not available for one thing or the other. But it’s fine. I’m back now and I hope I’d be consistent enough.

There’s no point opening up wounds from the Watford loss over the weekend, so we can only look forward to the Europa League tie, the weekend fixture against Everton and hope to build another consistent run of results. Hey, since losing 4-0 to Liverpool in August, we hit great strides, four wins on the bounce in the Premier League, two wins in our maiden Europa League competition and a comfortable win in the Carabao Cup, but I’m here to talk about Wojciech Szczesny, our ex-Gunner that currently plies his trade in Juventus and is certainly the heir apparent to the legendary Gianluigi Buffon.

This summer, I wrote an article about Szczesny’s potential move to Juventus and I was in crossroads on this issue. In my honest opinion, I felt the manager knew his squad enough to see that he couldn’t accommodate Szczesny in it anymore and as opportunistic as the signing of Petr Cech may seem, his arrival certainly meant that Wenger had to make a big decision between Szczesny and David Ospina and even though his initial move to AS Roma was on loan, I was certainly sure that he was on his way out of the club.

The Polish goalie returned from his first spell with the Italian outfit, and Arsene Wenger clearly had no plans for him last season, so he was shipped to the same club where he continued his footballing education and added a Golden Glove to his individual collection of accolades. With Szczesny having just a year left on his deal, the Gunners cashed in on him, and Juventus got their man for €12.2 million.

So we as Arsenal fans had ‘moved on’ from the Szczesny issue. There were a lot of arguments in several forums like my Arsenal BlackBerry group, Gooner Daily, where some fans believed it was a grave mistake to offload him the way we did, leaving a shaky goalie like Ospina for another season. Ospina has already showed his frailties this season in the Europa League and fans of international football can attest to the fact that he had moments of horror for his nation, Colombia.

We certainly trust Cech enough to use him in the Premier League while Ospina manages the Cup games and we were okay with our goalkeeping situation at the moment, but Szczesny speaks to some folks at the Independent about his life at Arsenal and his new adventure with Juventus and you can’t help but feel some type of way after reading the article.

I’m in no mood to quote some of the words Szczesny stated in the interview, hey, there’s a link, so you could check it out yourself but he mentioned stuff about improving after he left Arsenal as well as the difference in approach from his days at Arsenal to his time in the Serie A, which he attests to the fact that they are more analytical in the Serie A than in his time at London Colney. He was also specific about the impact the coaches had at Roma, compared to Arsenal, which was an eye opener for me.

I started asking myself questions like, ‘why did we have goalkeepers that showed the same traits for that odd error in them consistently?’. C’mon, Manuel Almunia, Jens Lehmann, Lukasz Fabianski, Szczesny, Ospina and even Cech have dropped clangers and made high-profile mistakes while guarding between the sticks at the club. I’m not saying no goalie isn’t capable of committing a blunder every now and then, but some goalies were ticking time bombs at the club.

Does this have to do with the kind of goalkeeping coaching they receive? I like Gerry Peyton and I feel he’s a living legend, but I thought we were going to shake things up at the backroom staff level, and with Lehmann joining the coaching ranks, I was hopeful he’d supplement the goalkeeping department, but word on the street is that Lehmann isn’t specifically working with just the goalies. We had a good goalkeeping coach in Tony Roberts but he moved to Wales with Lukasz Fabianski. I was hoping Christophe Lollichon would join Cech when he moved from Chelsea but that never came into fruition.

Cech is reaching his twilight years and I expect him to give us maybe 2 more seasons but in Szczesny we would have had a good succession plan, but that’s no longer possible with the goalie now convinced in his heart that Juventus is the place for him.

I always get chills when watching Ospina between the sticks because I just feel he’s one mistake away from costing us, irrespective of the opposition, so I’m just hoping that when Wenger decides to leave in 2019, the new manager would come in to shake things up and will probably sign a new goalie. We know the current manager is quite sentimental in his decision making because I don’t see how a manager would favor Ospina ahead of Szczesny in this modern time and age.


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Thoughts on the Season So Far

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As we head into another international break, it’s time to take stock and review how the season has panned out so far.

The early summer signing of Alexandre Lacazette was certainly a step in the right direction, and we hoped for a bit more, but it’s fair to say the Alexis Sanchez saga was rather messy, even though he remained with the club and is odds on to leave on a free transfer next summer, with Mesut Ozil and maybe Jack Wilshere. Some would have felt the club could have invested on more talent, but the acquisitions of Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have been worth their weight in gold. Arsene Wenger still has time to access the squad, but we all know he’s not a fan of the January transfer window, so we will have to make do with the squad as it is.

In terms of competitions, the team began the campaign well with winning a couple of preseason tournaments and the Community Shield against last season’s champions, Chelsea, but the start to the new Premier League campaign was an aberration with losses to Stoke and Liverpool following a nervy opening day victory against Leicester. Since then, Wenger has steadied the ship with impressive wins over West Brom, Brighton and Bournemouth, as well as a creditable draw at Stamford Bridge. The aforementioned wins against the likes of WBA, BHA and Bournemouth were rather expected, but following the team’s performance at Stamford Bridge in recent seasons, getting a draw, especially playing the way they did on the night gave the fans a good feeling. The Europa League has offered a new adventure, and the manager has been able to use the depth of his squad to good effect, gaining six points from a possible six. The young guns also put up a great shift in the Carabao Cup tie against Doncaster.

Injuries have taken their toll this season with the long term absentee, Santi Cazorla, still recuperating from the plethora of surgeries he had on his tendons. Jack Wilshere had his own injury concerns at the start of the season but he has come stronger with some very impressive performances in the minutes he has been afforded this season. Mesut Ozil seems to be the latest player struggling with injuries but hopefully, he will shake them off before the international break closes.

On individual performance, Nacho Monreal has to me, been the most outstanding player, continuing his consistent performances week in, week out. Lacazette has settled to live in North London, scoring a host of goals at home, and like Harry Kane, we will be hoping he can start banging them in on his travels, starting with Watford at Vicarage Road. Alexis Sanchez is slowly coming back to his best form and I’m pretty sure he will get better with games.

Let’s just hope all players will return from the break unscathed.


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BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal: Wenger Makes Good Use of Squad Depth

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BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal

Match Report Match Highlights Post-Match Press Conference

The start to the new campaign was quite tumultuous but Arsene Wenger has done his bit to steady the ship with two wins and a creditable draw at Stamford Bridge in the last three Premier League games. With half an eye on Sunday’s lunch time kickoff against Brighton Hove and Albion, it was evident that he was going to rest a host of players ahead of the Europa League tie against BATE Borisov.

There were pictures that surfaced online before the game, showing ex-BATE and Arsenal player, Aliaksandr Hleb, catching up with the squad and taking a selfie with his former boss. Hleb was one of those players that made a great impact in the squad, being an integral part of that fantastic four midfield that challenged for the league in the 2007/08 season. Many would regard his departure to Barcelona as a terrible mistake as his career went downhill, but these things happen.

David Ospina rightly took his place in goal and with Calum Chambers still injured, Skhodran Mustafi retained his place in the defense alongside club captain, Per Mertesacker and upcoming youngster, Rob Holding completing the back three. The midfield quarter was made up of youngsters like Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson, with Mo Elneny providing the much-needed experience. Hector Bellerin was badly in need of a breather and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gone to Liverpool’s bench, Carl Jenkinson out on loan and Matt Debuchy clearly out of favor, it seems like the way has been paved for Reiss Nelson to deputize in Bellerin’s stead. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott played behind Olivier Giroud that was still in search of his century of goals at the club.

The Gunners started the game on the front foot and finally got the lead their play deserved when Wilshere connected with Giroud before cutting the ball back from the byline. The lofted ball was headed goalwards by Walcott but Scherbitski made a superb save. Fortunately for the English winger, he was on hand to tap in the rebound. If there was some difficulty about the game’s opener, there were no problems with Arsenal’s second goal as a defensive error from the BATE Borisov defense left Walcott clear on goal with the goalie and he wasted no time in smashing in his second of the night.

The game was turning into a rout for Arsenal as Holding reacted fast to Mertesacker’s knockdown from a corner kick to score his first Arsenal goal. Three goals up and the Gunners were cruising but BATE got a goal back through their star attacking midfielder, Ivanic. Arsenal extended their lead from the penalty spot through Giroud, and it turned out to be an emotional moment for him as he joined the elite league of Arsenal forwards to score 100 goals for the club.

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Say what you want about Giroud, but he has matured a lot from that young forward in Montpellier to his bearded bloke that has popped up with really important goals for his team. A defensive error from Holding saw Gordeichuk pull one back for BATE but Arsenal had Ospina to thank for keeping the scoreline at bay as the Colombian shot stopper worked overtime with a plethora of important saves.

In the end if was a satisfying result against a team the Gunners had never played before and with many star names rested, the Gunners will be fresh for their encounter against Brighton on Sunday.


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