Arsenal’s goalkeeper problems run deeper than just personnel.
During the summer, academy graduate Wojciech Szczesny returned to Arsenal knowing full well he had no future there. That wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough. Rather, it seemed his relationship with Arsene Wenger had become fractious, and his first team prospects were minimal. Due to that, the club were all too ready to sell him to Juventus for a rather pitiful £11m.
At the time, the decision was questionable. In hindsight, it was downright awful.
Arsenal are crying out for some long-term quality in a position they haven’t been able to crack for over a decade and Szczesny, having improved in his two years at Roma, was the perfect option.
He was a good age, had the quality and would have cost the club nothing. All they had to do was drop Petr Cech down to second choice, as he was at Chelsea a few years ago.
Evidently, Arsenal weren’t prepared to do that.
Cech still has quality despite his age, and wasn’t so bad that he was in urgent need of replacing. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been so good that he’s irreplaceable, either.
There was an opportunity in the summer to improve the situation, but the club, as it’s wont to do, opted for continuity. That continuity has rewarded us with a keeper who can’t save penalties and is making more mistakes than he has at any point of his illustrious career to date.
However, Cech is the least of Arsenal’s worries here.
Of greater concern should be Szczesny’s comments about his time at Roma. In an interview with the Guardian, the Pole claimed that he learned more in Italy than he did during his entire time in England and that he didn’t improve technically at all at Arsenal.
The difference, he said, was in the coaching.
Italy is all about the fine details and analysing what could be improved. England, on the other hand, is more about experience, and often neglecting the fine details that could give someone a competitive edge.
Szczesny isn’t the only keeper who has gotten better away from the club.
Lukasz Fabianski was given the dubious nickname “Flappy Handski” for his inability to catch a cross into the box when playing for Arsenal, but at Swansea this has never been an issue.
You’ll often see him confidently claiming anything that comes his way with assured handling; as if he had worked hard to improve himself under the guidance of new coaches.
Go through the list of keepers who have played for Arsenal since Jens Lehmann left in 2008 and you’ll discover that they all had similar problems: unable to dominate their penalty area, and a tendency to make rash decisions.
If the coaching at Arsenal is inadequate, Cech’s steady decline shouldn’t be a surprise. The problem this gives the club is that they become reliant on a players individual quality. The only type of keeper that’s going to look great in an Arsenal shirt is one who is so technically and tactically sound that no amount of dodgy coaching will hurt him.
Finding a keeper that good is far from easy.
So, we’re left with Cech.
It’s not a bad option by any means, but it leaves us stuck if his form continues to drop.
We don’t have the option of bringing in a younger guy from the bench.
We sold that guy in the summer…