This column was written before Arsenal v West Ham
Back in February, I wrote a column on the five things we learned from Arsenal’s horror show at Chelsea and one of my points has never seemed more relevant.
Arsenal need to keep hold of Wojciech Szczesny at all costs.
Following David Ospina’s back injury that he suffered during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Manchester City, it’s become glaringly obvious that the club don’t have a huge amount of decent back-up when it comes to goalkeepers.
In fact, Arsenal have even recalled youth keeper, Matt Macey, from his loan spell at Luton Town.
Petr Cech is still out with the calf strain he picked up away at the Hawthorns before the interlul and Wojciech Szczesny – arguably the most capable keeper at our club now – is off enjoying his second loan spell with Roma.
What’s concerning, however, is that if the President of the Polish Football Association, Zbigniew Boniek, is to be believed, Woj doesn’t want to return to Arsenal if Arsene Wenger stays past his contract at the end of the season, which looks likely. In fact, apparently the Poland international actually stated that he would like to stay with Roma. Not good.
Woj’s current Arsenal deal expires in 2018 and with Roma reportedly champing at the bit to sign him, it could be an easy choice for the 26-year-old to make.
But it shouldn’t be. At least, Arsenal shouldn’t allow it to be.
Cech isn’t the player he was and although he’s great at communication behind the scenes, between the sticks, he’s now not so fantastic. This season, the 34-year-old’s kept eight clean sheets in 27 Premier League appearances. He’s also failed to save seven penalties.
In 28 games over all competitions, he’s kept nine clean sheets and conceded 32 goals. That works out at an average of 1.14 goals conceded per game.
Ospina, who’s out of contract in 2019 but appears rather keen to jump ship this summer, has featured in 13 games this season over all competitions and only kept four clean sheets. The Colombian’s shipped 21 – that’s around 1.6 goals a game.
While at Roma this season, where Woj is first choice keeper, our loanee has featured 31 times, keeping 13 clean sheets and conceding 29 goals. Around 0.9 goals a game. He’s the only one of our keepers not to concede over a goal a game.
Out of the four penalties he’s been called into action for this season, he’s saved two.
The time is now
Szczesny is about to reach his prime and he’s shown he’s more than capable. He’s gained the experience that he was sent out on loan to get and he’s become an asset. The keeper many always knew he could be when he’d matured.
There’s a reason this Serie A club want to keep him.
At the moment, Arsenal are struggling in most senses of the word.
Just because the team drew 2-2 against City doesn’t hide that.
While some of his anxiety most definitely can be blamed on off-the-pitch issues, such as not knowing who the hell will be managing the team next season or whether the club’s best players are staying, there’s still a fragility there and stench of vulnerability. A lot of which comes through our quite frankly bizarre displays on the pitch. With a trustworthy leader behind the back four, the team might lift their heads, stop nursing their fragile egos and step up.
Woj came to the Arsenal academy from Legia Warsaw 11 years ago so I can imagine that he’s impatient. He was the Gunners’ no.1 for several seasons, only to get pushed aside for Cech in 2015. Perhaps he feels like he doesn’t owe anything to the club or manager that would just as readily get someone else in than allow him another season or two to develop. Perhaps he’s given up caring. Perhaps it’s easier to stay at Roma where he never has to compete for the no.1 spot than return to the uncertainty of Arsenal. And to be honest, I wouldn’t blame him if he did.
However, at the age of 26, now is the time for him to come home and prove why he was always supposed to be Arsenal’s no.1. Wenger showed faith in him from a young age. Now, whether the boss stays or not, the club need him to repay that faith, whether he truly believes he owes it or not.
Pay him the wages he wants, give him the no.1 shirt and bring some of the heart back to Arsenal.