Arsenal currently sit 21 points adrift of Manchester United in the Premier League table and its been another disappointing domestic league campaign from the Gooners, as they are still to tie up a top four position with another seven games still to play.
I was listening to the radio on the way to work yesterday and the former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein was talking about the club and what the team needs to do to challenge for major honors. Dein said something along the lines of “I know how Arsene will strengthen the team in the summer” and it got me thinking of potential signings at the club.
But where is one to start? There are so many departments that Arsenal would need to strengthen if they are to challenge for the Premier League title – for the sake of order, I thought I would start at the back and with the goalkeeper.
Its been obvious to me for a while that Wojciech Szczesny was not good enough for the Premier League – Its something I have been saying for a couple of years now and it really did surprise me that Arsene Wenger stuck with him all this time. Far be it for me to criticise Wenger but his faith in the Polish goalkeeper was strange to me.
First off, given the age and inexperience of Szczesny, it was to be expected that he would struggle in the League. It is no coincidence that throughout history, those considered the ‘best’ goalkeepers at the time have always been around the age of 30 or over. For recent examples, look at Oliver Kahn, Peter Schmeichael, Gianluigi Buffon – they all reached their peak at 30+ following a number of years at the top level.
To counter that argument, you might mention the fact that David De Gea is even younger yet the number 1 at Manchester United. But how can I say this without sounding harsh – comparing De Gea with Szczesny is like comparing a Fiat with a Porsche – there is a huge difference between the two.
With respect to Wojciech Szczesny, he is one of the most over-rated goalkeepers I have come across. The media (and in particular the Twitter brigade) have blown up his potential out of all proportions. The initial statements about him when he first burst onto the scene bordered on the delusional. His cocky nature might seem to some as confidence but deep down, Szczesny betrays some mental weaknesses that will always hold him back. I remember a recent quote from Roy Keane along the lines of “Goalkeepers make errors when they get too cocky” and it’s a lesson Szczesny will do well to learn.
He is a decent young goalkeeper who has a bright future ahead of him, sure. But ready to play at a club like Arsenal? Give me a break Arsene.
It was pretty poor from Wenger to throw in the inexperienced Szczesny into the deep-end and expect him to perform straight away. Last season, no goalkeeper made more individual errors than Szczesny.
Thus, it is now imperative for Wenger to stop dossing about and sign a world-class goalkeeper this summer. Lukas Fabianski has come in since the Szczesny dropping and has kept three clean sheets in his four games. But he is no long-term alternative as the number 1 for the future. Neither is good enough at this level and if Arsenal have serious hopes of ending what is becoming an embarrassing run, then they will really have to address the goalkeeping situation.