BBC BLOGS - Paul Fletcher
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

The answer to Arsenal's goalkeeping problems?

Post categories:

Paul Fletcher | 10:32 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I am sitting in the passenger seat of a left-hand drive Audi on a sunny if blustery Friday lunchtime in late February.

It is parked in the potholed car park of Brentford's training ground in west London. Off in the distance I can see trainees chasing after footballs that seem to be dancing across the lush turf of their own volition. Inside the vehicle, the 19-year-old Pole sat next to me is demonstrating the extraordinary power of his stereo.

Wojciech Szczesny is tall, self-confident, outspoken and engaging. It is also possible he is the long-term solution to what is widely perceived to be Arsenal's goalkeeping problem.

At present, Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski are taking turns between the sticks for the Gunners, but neither man has looked assured. Fabianski, for example, was at fault for both goals as Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by Porto in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie. Almunia will get the chance to keep the Portuguese side at bay on Wednesday as Arsenal target a place in the quarter-finals.

So where does Szczesny fit in? Well, he is currently on loan at Brentford until the end of the season after joining the Gunners as a 16-year-old in 2006. The former Legia Warsaw player has been earning rave reviews for his performances in League One and is showing the kind of promise that convinced Arsene Wenger to bring him to England.

In January this year, Wenger said of Szczesny: "We have identified Wojciech as a future great, great goalkeeper. I really believe in him that he will one day be Arsenal's number one. He has all the qualities you want from a goalkeeper."

Szczesny hopes to fulfil Wenger's prediction sooner rather than later.

"When I return to Arsenal I want to be fighting to be first choice," said the teenager, who says he will stick with his number 53 shirt until the number one becomes his. "You have to believe you are good enough to take someone's place and I want to take that of whoever is number one at Arsenal."

Ironically, that could be fellow Pole Fabianski, who also made the move from Legia to Arsenal, albeit in 2007, after Szczesny was already at the Emirates. In fact, it was Szczesny who helped his compatriot adjust to his new surroundings and overcome the language barrier.

Wojciech Szczesny saves a penalty during Brentford's game against Wycombe Szczesny saves a penalty at Wycombe while playing for Brentford

Speaking to Szczesny, it appears he would have no qualms about relegating Fabianski down the pecking order at Arsenal, and I have no doubt that the youngster has the mental attributes to reach the very top in a position that leaves a player more exposed than any of his team-mates.

It strikes me that Szczesny is the type of person who thrives on adversity, the sort of sportsman who finds it difficult to raise himself for a meaningless friendly but who will perform at his very best if his ability is being questioned.

"I don't want people to say that I am all right or average," added Szczesny. "I want people to say I am the best and they love me, or the worst and they hate me."

It is with obvious satisfaction that he describes a game against Gillingham during which the opposition fans were subjecting him to abuse.

"I love pressure and I absolutely love getting stick from fans," he said. "The Gillingham supporters were giving it to me but we were winning and that made me feel so nice."

I am told that Szczesny, who usurped the competent Lewis Price at Griffin Park, made a sensational start to his Brentford career, an opinion that the keeper himself shared when explaining that he felt unbeatable during his first seven or eight performances.

Brentford were struggling near the relegation zone when they initially signed Szczesny on a short-term deal in late November. They have conceded 10 goals in the 13 games the keeper has played since then, moving up the table and away from danger in the process.

However, when I met up with Szczesny prior to their match at Leeds, he was far from satisfied with his most recent performances, arguing he had become "too casual".

"Being at Brentford has been a tough lesson," he told me. "Staying focused for the full 90 minutes is difficult but it is something I have to learn. I don't think I would be doing that playing for Arsenal reserves.

"As a person, I am over-confident and I have always been like that. But as a goalkeeper that is very important because if you make a mistake and stop believing in yourself then you are really going to be weak."

Szczesny trains with Arsenal during the early part of the week if Brentford do not have a match on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, receiving feedback from the Gunners training staff on his development. But if he feels in need of some extra advice or wise council then he usually calls up his dad.

That's because Maciej Szczesny is a former Poland international keeper, now a prominent football pundit on television. In fact, the younger Szczesny reckons his old man is so outspoken that he often takes stick back home for what his father has said.

Szczesny returns to Warsaw as often as he can, too, staying in his flat that overlooks the plot for the redeveloped national stadium - being built for Euro 2012 - while he visits friends and, in particular, his girlfriend. His car is littered with used plane tickets.

Szczesny wants to play for Poland in the new stadium in Warsaw at Euro 2012A new stadium is being built in Warsaw for Euro 2012

Szczesny, labelled the new Iker Casillas back in his homeland, made his full debut for Poland last year in a friendly against Canada, while his solitary first-team appearance for the Gunners came in a Carling Cup tie against West Brom earlier this season.

On the back seat of his car, next to an empty Curly-Wurly wrapper, is a copy of the DVD of the match against the Baggies, and it is obvious that Szczesny is disappointed he did not have more opportunities to press his claims.

A nasty gym accident in November 2008 didn't help. He broke both arms and now sports a thin six-inch scar up each forearm.

But he is now fully focused on becoming the Arsenal number one. He trained with Bolton before opting to join the Gunners and talks in hellish terms about the twice daily training sessions he was put through with Wanderers. Arriving at Arsenal, he told me, was like arriving in a different world.

There is a refreshing honesty to Szczesny, who lives in an age of dull media platitudes but who clearly has plenty of opinions and is not afraid to share them.

I finish by asking him where he sees himself in a year. The answer is direct and honest: If he is not challenging for the first-team jersey at Arsenal then he will look to go out on loan again, hopefully with a Premier League club but if not then a Championship one.

After he had driven off and I climbed on my bike for the long ride home, it occurred to me that I had not asked him whether he thought he could become as good as Casillas, so I texted him the question.

Later that afternoon, he replied: "Unfortunately I do not know the answer to that question but if you ask me whether I believe it then surely the answer is 'yes'."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting read Paul. I do feel that being a keeper, it's the easiest position to make a step up from a lower league too a higher one. Although I may be well off the mark. I've only ever seen this lad play once, and he was quite impressive. Although it's hard to judge someone on one performance.

    Shame he's not English.

  • Comment number 2.

    Paul,

    You should do an article on the real star of Polish football...

    Raddy Majewski

  • Comment number 3.

    Having seen this guy play superbly against Norwich this season, I find it amazing that he isn't Arsenal's number one keeper already - far better than Fabianski and Almunia! I would say that it might due to his age, but that sort of thing doesn't usually bother Mr Wenger does it...

  • Comment number 4.

    Sounds like a good prospect...never seen the lad play..but i shall keep an eye.Arsenal certainly need a class keeper,Almunia was pretty good a few seasons back but he just seems so far away in class from reina and cech.Glad to see wilshire score at the weekend and was pleased that walcott played well too.

  • Comment number 5.

    i never understood why they havent signed someone like jaaskeleinen or given as soon as lehman left

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi paul,


    Great article but this lad ive heard alot about through his days playing in the arsenal reserves hes a hot prospect for arsenal and poland. However i dont see him break into the arsenal no1 goalkeeper spot for longer while hes young and tipped to make it big but i dont see wenger breaking that mould between fabianski,alumina and mannonne he needs more team experience to make it big at the top it all sounds good in the league hes playing in but as a goalkeeper you have to have something special to make it big espeically playing for teams like arsenal.


    I would defo give him a chance to prove himself as our other goalkeepers such as alumina,fabianski are yet to impress but if wenger did give him a chance he would probably most likely play in the carling cup or fa cup.
    Hes one for the future and ''the next casillas'' is a big name tag but i just wouldnt go that far yet give him time im sure he will prove to be a future star

  • Comment number 7.

    Fantastic to see some proper recognition for Wojciech, he's been incredible for the Bees since November. We were on a very, very poor run of form when he came in and he almost single-handedly increased confidence in the entire team.

    Performances against Norwich, MK Dons, Southampton and Carlisle stand out for me, and it's nice to see the Norwich fan agreeing above.

    In 19 years as a season ticket holder at GP, I can honestly say I have never seen a better keeper at our level, and every game I watch him in a Brentford shirt is a privilege. He is too good for our level! Some of his saves have been breathtaking, and if he carries on producing the same level of performances, then I have no doubt at all that he will become Arsenal and Poland's number one for many years.

  • Comment number 8.

    Brilliant read, thanks Paul. I'm surprised he managed a full debut for the poland nationl side with Fabianaski, Kuszcak (ignore the spelling !), Dudek, Boruc and Zulaska (who was a cracking player last season at least). Any idea why he managed to get above all of those (and i'm assuming there are others scattered across europe) in the polish pecking order ? Thanks.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dominic - "why did he get above all of those in the Polish pecking order?"

    Simple: he's that good.

  • Comment number 10.

    #7

    I'm and Arsenal fan i i don't know much about this lad at all (apart from the fact that he is part of our squad and out on loan to gain experience) but if what you are saying is true i hope he continues to develop at your fine club and then comes back ready to be our Nr1.

    Good luck for the rest of the season.

  • Comment number 11.

    I haven't seen him play so can't comment on his ability but for me Boruc is a real talent and i'm not sure a 19 year old with no first team football above league one should be usurping him.

  • Comment number 12.

    There seems to be one major problem with goalkeepers playing at the very top level - concentration. Playing at Brentford he is probably involved a fair amount with the game, as they are near the bottom of the league. However, playing for Arsenal is different. You have nothing to do for long periods then are called upon all of a sudden. Keepers can switch off in these circumstances. Staying mentally involved when you don't have a touch for 20 minutes can be difficult for some players. This, in my opinion, is why some keepers have the problem of stepping up to a better team.

  • Comment number 13.

    I saw him play against West Brom and he is a very talented player. Hopefully with all the back room staff and coaching he is getting from the Arsenal team as well as playing for Brentford in the 1st Division will improve him immensely and within a couple of years he should be pushing for that number 1 jersey.

    Another good young find for Wenger and his scouts.

  • Comment number 14.

    It is as important that a player commits in a meaningless friendly. It's all a question of focus and if you can let it go in a friendly, you can let it go in a more important game.

  • Comment number 15.

    Any Arsenal fan will tell you he is the best keeper we have although ironically his age is what is keeping him from the first team. If he played in any other position he would go straight into the side.

    I've only seen highlights of his performances this season and he has made some great saves but what we lack at arsenal is a keeper with more positional sense and composure. Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone are all good shot stoppers but they all make silly mistakes when under pressure.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have heard a lot about this lad, but not seen him play - And i am genuinely excited that he can become one fo the best keepers in the world.

    #5 - I too cannot understand why Wenger never went and purchased Given. Also when Juventus were relegated over the match fixing scandal - Why not go for Buffon..? As Juve owed us money from the Vieira sale...

    Wishful thinking...

  • Comment number 17.

    #11

    when he played for Poland it was when Boruc was making mistake after mistake. Sounds like a good prospect and seems to have a good head on his shoulders!

  • Comment number 18.

    A very good read indeed Paul!

    Honestly, one of the only reasons that I've seen Szczesny's name before was when Arsenal had their early-season "Goalkeeping crisis" which wasn't actually much of a crisis at all! Otherwise, it was through managerial football games...

    I'm intrigued by the prospect of having such a good 'keeper. After all, Almunia's now 32 and Fabianski is not the shot-stopper we all expected him to be.

    In fact, if anything, I'd say that Fabianski's awful - he's underperformed in more or less every game that I've ever watched him play, and has made really costly mistakes at high level (2-1 loss to Porto and the FA Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea, just to name a couple) last year which you just can't make in a side that is regularly competing for top honours. In my honest opinion, Fabianski should get sold on, or at least loaned out to another team of a relatively high standard (Premier League or foreign side playing in European Competition), so that he can get some regular game-time and build some confidence. Otherwise, I think he could be very easily leap-frogged by Arsenal's other two young 'keepers, Mannone and the man featured here.

    Mannone, I believe, did very well during the aforementioned 'keeper crisis. Sure, in his first game against AZ Alkmaar, he had a nightmare first half due to nerves (after all, it was his debut, and it was Champions League!) but from the half-time break onwards, he was superb - I couldn't fault him, nor for the games that followed.

    Therefore, I think that, providing Szczesny is as good as is being promised in this article, there's going to be two VERY promising stoppers vying for Arsenal's #1 jersey in a couple of years time. I look forward to it with interest!

    Another great signing by the genius.

  • Comment number 19.

    Sorry, my mistake - Mannone's debut was against Standard. The kits look so similar...

  • Comment number 20.

    #16.

    I too hope he can become a class keeper. I've never seen him in action but have heard good things about him, we can always dare to dream.

    About Buffon though. When Juventus were relegated he made a promise to the club and the fans that he would not leave even if the biggest clubs came knocking, and in that season (I think) he pretty much single handedly gained them promotion. I would have loved to have Gigi at Arsenal, but it was/is never going to happen unfortunately.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'd love to know why it is that the Poles have produced so many good goalkeepers down the years... so many good Poles between the Poles, as it were. Heh, heh...

  • Comment number 22.

    If I was an Arsenal fan I would be hoping all these reports of his ability prove to be true.. because I think they have 3 very ordinary goalkeepers at their club at the moment.. I think the only reason they are still spoken about as good goalkeepers who suffer from mistakes is because of Wenger's backing and the respect he carries for picking out talent..

    Eastern Europe certainly seems to be producing an astonishing amount of decent keepers the last few years.

  • Comment number 23.

    I remember seeing him this season against the Baggies at the Emirates and I was struck then by two things. Firstly was his height - at 6'4" he's the tallest player in our entire team (U18-1st XI) and being tall as a keeper is only ever a good thing. The second thing I noticed was his sheer athleticism given his height - he pulled off two absolutely phenomenal saves against West Brom - saves that you really wouldn't expect most keepers to get at, let alone a then-18 year old.

    I like Alumina but agree with previous poster who said that Almunia has gone down a little in non-pressure situations. He's still great for reaching and close range saves - but he's never managed to get a complete grip on coming for crosses - something that Fabianski, quite ironically, is excellent at most times. Fabianski is inferior to Alumina in so many ways though. I do not expect him to be more than our No.2 to either Mannone or Szcznesny (in the future) and I've seen a lot more from Szczesny than Mannone (although Mannone still looks like he could develop to be better than Fabianski at his age).

    I really hope Szczesny gets to pushing Fabianski off his perch. We've seen that Wenger is not completely satisfied about his goalkeeper and hasn't been since Lehmann left and that is why he rotates. Let's not also forget the fact that Mannone kept Almunia out of the team when he started to cover him when he was ill...

    I just think that having seen both Szczesny and Mannone in action that the young Pole has a brighter future and frankly has the better physique to be a brilliant keeper and I hope, that finally, he can prove the hype is right - we've been waiting for an excellent keeper - it's time for one of them to shine and be given a chance in the next 12-18 months.

  • Comment number 24.

    Whatever happened to the British goalkeepers? Very sad that teams continually seek foreign players and do not develop home grown talent. Where are the decent British keepers? You article would be of far more interest on up and coming British keepers.
    Time and time again England fail to progress to the stage they should be capable of reaching (ie semis and finals) but the constant development of overseas players reduces England chances more and more. in fact this current crop of England players could be the last chance for the current age group to make a decent run in the World Cup (but are making a right mess of it with their 'off-field' activities)
    No disrespect to the young Polish lad I wish him all the best. It would be nice to see real talent getting developed properly at a local level and fed through into senior clubs at all levels.

  • Comment number 25.

    I saw his debut against West Brom and he looked good, certainly a more imposing figure than the other keepers we have. I think people are being a bit quick to write off Fabianski. He still has potential, a few mistakes do not make him a bad keeper. People forget he also made some good saves against Porto. As with other positions, the goalkeeper situation looks to have a bright future too.

  • Comment number 26.

    Do you really think scouts are not scouring the land for talent closer to home? It just isn't out there. For whatever reason, England is not producing in numbers the kind of quality keepers that she used to. Partly a generational thing, I think. But please stop blaming foreign imports for your own inadequacies.

  • Comment number 27.

    The mid table teams have a knack of signing up quality 'keepers who have been deemed surplus to requirements elsewhere. Typically the team they left is now struggling!

    Just think how many points a season these lads add with their quality displays between the sticks:

    Aston Villa - Friedal (Liverpool reject)
    - Reina is a top 'keeper, but I'd rather have the big American Friedal, with his command of the 6 yard box

    Everton - The lad Tim Howard (Man Utd reject)
    - Van der Sar on his last legs, literally, what comes next???

    Birmingham - Joe Hart (Man City reject)
    - Shay Given is too short to have any future in the top flight, he has great trouble dealing with the lofted balls floated into his box

    Fulham - Schwarzer (Middlesboro reject)
    - Just look where the teesiders are now to see the mistake they made in pushing this top 'keeper out

    Stoke - Sorensen (Aston Villa reject)
    - Villa forced him out to give the lad Friedal a chance, and I think we can all agree they rue that descision, after a year of shaky performances from the unreliable American

    Blackburn - Robinson (Tottenham reject)
    - Solid English 'keeper, much more reliable than the fancy dan Gomes, with his shambolic handling. Redknapp missed a trick when he got rid of Robinson

    Bolton - Jaaskelainen (VPS Vaasa reject)
    - When it comes to choosing keepers, the Finnish club has a terrible record. Letting the lad Jaaskelainen leave to Bolton? What a mistake!

    I think I've made my point.

  • Comment number 28.

    I've seen this lad a couple of times and i've been impressed each time. I think he's done very well at Brentford and is easily marking himself as one of the best keepers in League One this season. I think it's important for a GK to have confidence as well as ability. Knowing he's making these great saves, whatever the league, will only boost his confidence when he's back at Arsenal and hopefully he'll have a great pre-season and possibly push to be our number 2 next season if not on loan again. I think given Almunia's age, Szczesny should be our number one going in to the 2011/12 season.

    I read somewhere that Wenger's way is to get a player out to fight to win games for a relegation freatened team, and then to get them to play for a league winning team is the norm so don't be surprised if this lad turned up at one of the relegated Prem teams this season, being a loan, could be a good buy for Pompey if they're still here.

    Similarities with Joe Hart I reckon. Let's hope he keeps his feet on the ground and grows mentally ready for the top flight. I look forward to having him back in Arsenal colours and playing regularly in the next couple years!

  • Comment number 29.

    Really interesting article. I think to play in his position confidence is a necessity. he seems to have his head well screwed-on for a young lad. Being a Gooner I wish him every success.

  • Comment number 30.

    a) Jaaskelainen wasn't unwanted, he was spotted playing for the Finnish side and we made a bid for him. It was aacepted and we've had to put a lot of work into him.

    b) I remember his lad being on trial at Bolton, but its good to see we didn;t sign him becasue with an attitude like that who would want him. Two training sessions a day! Oh dear! Don't want to work too hard! Thatsthe reason why we have 2 top class keeps at our club, due to the keeper coach Fred Barber and the hourse they all put in.

  • Comment number 31.

    27. At 12:54pm on 09 Mar 2010, Dreadside Nubune wrote:
    The mid table teams have a knack of signing up quality 'keepers who have been deemed surplus to requirements elsewhere. Typically the team they left is now struggling!

    Just think how many points a season these lads add with their quality displays between the sticks:

    Aston Villa - Friedal (Liverpool reject)
    - Reina is a top 'keeper, but I'd rather have the big American Friedal, with his command of the 6 yard box

    Stoke - Sorensen (Aston Villa reject)
    - Villa forced him out to give the lad Friedal a chance, and I think we can all agree they rue that descision, after a year of shaky performances from the unreliable American



    I think I've made my point.

    So your point is that Freidel is better than Reina but worse than Sorenson?? or Friedel has a great command of his 6 yard box but is unreliable??

    Or something like that!!!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Dreadside Nubune

    shay given to short to have any future in the premiership?? hes one of the best keepers in the preimership if not the best his shot stopping and overall game has literally kept manchester city in the race for 4th place.
    while robinsons confidence while he was at tottenham was really poor and was just making far too many mistakes and needed a change of club to sort him self out.
    then you say friedel is better then reina but then say friedel is poor in relation to sorensen? all 3 of them are very good keepers and each has better parts of there game and would be hard to choose between them.

    joe hart is on loan purley for experience as he needed a run in a team.

    van der sar has been great for united yes hes old but so is tim howard and van der sar is still at the top of his game if you watch him week in week out hes one of uniteds top performers and has great agility for his age

  • Comment number 33.

    #27. Guven has no future at Premier League level? Given has been the most consistant keeper in the PL for over a decade now, although he is short for a keeper, he's done a brilliant job. And to use your logic...look what happened to Newcastle as soon as he left. He single handedly kept them in the PL for seasons.

    Struggling with your logic on Friedel as well, first you praise him, then say he's worse than Sorensen....? Again, next to Given, probably the leagues most consistent keeper for years!

  • Comment number 34.

    Ok I'm sorry, I have to shoot down the response from Dreadside Nubane. Utterly awful post. Lets have a look:

    "Aston Villa - Friedal (Liverpool reject)
    - Reina is a top 'keeper, but I'd rather have the big American Friedal, with his command of the 6 yard box
    Stoke - Sorensen (Aston Villa reject)
    - Villa forced him out to give the lad Friedal a chance, and I think we can all agree they rue that descision, after a year of shaky performances from the unreliable American"

    Explain what you mean here? To me this is completely contradictory, (Not to mention Reina is arguabley the best keeper in the Premiership).

    "Birmingham - Joe Hart (Man City reject)
    - Shay Given is too short to have any future in the top flight, he has great trouble dealing with the lofted balls floated into his box"
    Ok now this is getting laughable. Do you even know who Shay Given is? No future??!!! The man played 354 time for Newcastle in the Premiership and has now clearly cemented a place at Man City. He is 33 and has been playing top flight football for nearly 15 years. Not only does he have a future in top flight football but he has a past!!! Oh yeah and a 104 caps and counting for Ireland!
    Anyway rant over. Like the look of this Polish lad. Though Wenger's nous in scouting goalkeepers is questionable he could be on to a winner here.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ #27
    'Shay Given is too short to have any future in the top flight'

    I'm sorry, what?

    1. For a start his future is hardly an issue as he's already well into the back end of his career.
    2. Secondly he's actually 6'1 tall, which alot of people don't realise.
    3. He's been universally recognised as having been far and away one of the best keepers in the EPL for YEARS. Some would argue the Newcastle ship would have sunk well before last season without him between the sticks!

    Oh, and he's got over 100 international caps. Doesn't matter if not for a top, top team...you don't get that many without being the best for over a decade.

    Sorry, but while some of your comments on keepers were fairly valid it's laughable to try and call Shay Given anything other then one of the best keepers in the EPL. I'm a gooner and if i could change one thing about Wenger's reign it would be that he signed Shay when he wanted to leave Newcastle in 00/01 season.

    My final point: Just because a player leaves a club it doesn't make him a 'reject'. Joe Hart is only on loan for example...maybe he's doing exactly what Szczesny talks about doing in the above article? Getting EPL experience at a team where he's not down the pecking order?

  • Comment number 36.

    Dreadside Nubane

    It appears my fellow posters are of the same opinion as myself - Very confusing post.

  • Comment number 37.

    #21

    It's not that Poland produces so many classy goalkeepers. It's rather one club - Legia Warszawa and their goalkeeping coach Krzysztof Dowhan. Boruc, Zaluska, Fabianski, Zaluska - all of them were trained by Mr Dowhan.

    Premiership will get another goalkeeper trained by him very soon - it is Jan Mucha, first-choice goalie of Slovakia who will join Everton next season.

  • Comment number 38.

    add ''Fulham - Schwarzer (Middlesboro reject)
    - Just look where the teesiders are now to see the mistake they made in pushing this top 'keeper out'' skippy was not pushed out his contract had ran out and he wanted a new challenge, left with the best wishes from most boro fans for his great service.

  • Comment number 39.

    This lad is very good not the finished article by any means but he will be Arsenal's No 1 before very long. If you get a chance Arsenal fans you should try and come along to Griffin Park to see him in action.

    We are very lucky to have him and I am just going to enjoy watching every game he plays for us until the end of season.

    My son got his autograph at Leeds on Saturday as did our Leeds supporting friends who think he is the business.

  • Comment number 40.

    Have to chip in and agree with the criticism of Dreadside Nubune (# 27) - shockingly contradictory and inaccurate post!

    a) Do you rate Friedel or not?!
    b) Shay Given is not a young keeper trying to make a career in the game - as RobP states he's an immensely experienced keeper who has been one of the best in the league for well over a decade (and he's actually 6'1" which although not big for a keeper is not exactly short!)
    c) When Scandinavian teams sell players to English clubs, it is generally because the player wants to play at a higher level and the Scandinavian club needs some cash. You can't really criticise them for 'not hanging onto players' when they don't have the financial clout to do so.
    You are correct in that you did make your point... badly!

  • Comment number 41.

    Great article. As someone with a Polish background and a Legia Warsaw fan I have already put my money where my mouth is wrt this kid and bet some mates that this lad will be Poland and Arsenal number 1 within 2 years (bet made 6 months ago !!). Wrt Poland I believe he is the current manager's number 1 or 2 choice and did not play in the recent 2-0 win vs Bulgaria only because Poland needed him for an important U-21 game the same night. As it was Kuszczak played and as usual convinced no-one. I actually think Wojtek will be Poland's number 1 before he becomes Arsenal's 1. Dudek is past is, Boruc has personal problems he needs to overcome and Kuszczak and Fabianski are far too inconsistent.

    Good luck Wojtek.

  • Comment number 42.

    Nice article with one obvious error to any Bees fan that was in attendance during the first half of the season. If Lewis Price was competent, Wojciech wouldn't be with us. Price cost us 2 or all 3 points on numerous occasions due to poor positioning and indecision. I'm glad Andy Scott managed to locate such a talented young keeper to step in during Nicky Bull's absence through injury, to follow on from his 'find' of Ben Hamer from Reading last season, or we really would be jostling in among the Wycombes and Gillinghams and heading back to Div 4 instead of being able to build on what is a good squad nucleus for next season.

  • Comment number 43.

    A bit late sorry, but suggestion regarding comment 11; I believe a few Polish nationals have opted to play for other countries, after they play in a foreign league for a few years and qualify under residency rules. There is no danger of that happening now Szczesny has made his full international debut, so this could just be smart thinking from the Polish FA/Manager.

  • Comment number 44.

    Paul,

    he sounds almost identical to Artur Boruc. With the exception of Flapianski, who seems like a scared kitten, confieence seems to be a trait that runs through most Polish - goalkeepers in particular.

    Do you think there is a specific reason for this?

    I think some of the keepers in England could be doing with some of it as they fight to undermine each other at every turn.

  • Comment number 45.

    #27 Dreadside Nubune - Congratulations on getting everyone to post comments, even if it was to correct the errors in your own.

    I'll add that Brad Friedel moved from Liverpool to Blackburn (I believe after playing for the US in the olympics which meant he had the international appearances required for to get the work permit.) While he wasn't necessarily a poor keeper then it was almost 8 years ago. Although they did keep David James, who seems to have become a better keeper since he left Liverpool.

    Friedel, Howard and Hart are all keepers who moved from clubs where they aren't / weren't going to be first choice and have now established themselves. (I seem to remember Hart was almost going to be dropped earlier in the season).

    #37 PolakZPolski - Thanks for the post. I'll try to remember to keep an eye out for Jan Mucha. DO you think he'll displace Howard , be on the bench or go out on loan?

  • Comment number 46.

    Oh, and my favourite blog post for some time has to be #27 - it's so bad it's good! Has certainly sparked some debate!

  • Comment number 47.

    #27's post is full of inconsistencies but he's right about Given's height. Taking all sources into consideration he's between 182 and 185cm tall. That's somewhat short for a goalkeeper and it prevents him from being aerially dominant.

    However Given compensates for his poor command of area by staying on his line and anticipating incoming headers/shots when crosses come in. Considering the quality of his reflexes & anticipation this means his handicap when defending crosses is rather minimal...

  • Comment number 48.

    good blog paul...very good blog, hope the kid lives up to expectations.

  • Comment number 49.

    @40 DefendAndAttack: I agree with your post, but Finland is not part of Scandinavia.

  • Comment number 50.

    About Buffon though. in that season (I think) he pretty much single handedly gained them promotion

    ------------

    Single handed - that's just showing off. Use the other hand you big head!

  • Comment number 51.

    @ 12- As a keeper myself, I have to say you are spot on- all my really good games have been when I've been busy from the off, there's nothing worse for a keeper than having naff all to do!

  • Comment number 52.

    # 24. CraigieMacCraigie

    Why do you blame the clubs looking around for the best talent. Clubs spend a fortune training young British players in all the leagues. You have to remember that we have the wrong attitude when it comes to sports. How many English players are out on the town at 3am or been banned for drink driving. It's the usual English disease of we are better than you and I deserve to be in the team without playing properly.

    Most people have slated Arsenal for not bringing through English players but when we had Bergkamp playing and Bentley waiting in the wings he thought he was better than everyone else. Just look at him now. Only playing at Spurs because they have other players out injured. The same with Pennant who is now over in Spain I think getting fined for turning up late for training.

    It's just the same for our Tennis players who got humiliated in the Davis Cup match. We spend £60 million a year and they spend £90k a year and we still lose.

    Szczesny has worked hard and has come through even after breaking both arms. If English youngsters had that same drive and determination then maybe we would have world class goalkeepers as well as other players. All we seem to breed is arrogance.

  • Comment number 53.

    Played very well against Norwich, would expect him to challange for Arsenals number 1 shirt in a couple of years.

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick_Hove_Actually
    ----------------------------------

    spot on, people always blame "jonny foreigner" for our flaws and failiures. you want to know why our kids arent quite coming through? look at the way we teach the sport and a very young level, those who are more physically developed get ahead simply because they are stronger or quicker, theres less focus on skill and learning, and more about winning that under 11s game.

    Why does does singapore have a national football centre, while the burton complex is late and overbudget? ( i cant believe they actually scrapped it at one point). its seems we blame everyone apart from ourselves, football needs to take a long hard look at itself from top to bottom

  • Comment number 55.

    "We have identified Wojciech as a future great, great goalkeeper. I really believe in him that he will one day be Arsenal's number one..." "We have identified Manninger... Wright... Shabaan..." Heard it all before.

  • Comment number 56.

    Was a big fan of big keepers until I saw one of the best keepers in my life.. and he wasnt a giant.. Andy Goram.. he didnt bother with cross balls as he left it to his defence to defend them.. and if a header or shot came in if they failed.. he would pull off a save the majority of the time..

    bit off topic but the height issue is used too much.

  • Comment number 57.

    good article Paul,

    I remember watching Joe Hart as a 17 - 18 year old at Shrewsbury Town, before Stuart Pearce signed him for Man City. Szczesny reminds me of him, described as being too good for the league and destined for higher things!

    It would be fantastic to see him make it into the Arsenal first team, and cement his place for twenty years, but as with Joe Hart, maybe a few years experience is needed first before a lucky break, injury to Almunia and confidence crisis with the rest, and the spot will be his. Next season I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!!


  • Comment number 58.

    interesting point from Dreadside Nubune who says reina is a top keeper but saying he would prefer friedal whilst in the same post calling the american unreliable!
    i would rather have a top keeper than an unreliable one!!

    incidentally what on earth did wojciech do in the gym to break both arms??

  • Comment number 59.

    @27 I think I've made my point

    ------------------------------------

    I don't. So is Friedal a good or bad keeper?

  • Comment number 60.

    Don't you think it's a valid point overall though - that many so called lesser teams manage to find top quality 'keepers whereas the top sides seem to struggle? And if the top team does manage to find a good one, they invariably let them go?

    In fact, outside of the top 6 it's hard to find a team with a poor keeper! Even down at Burnley they've got the lad Jensen who is a massive presence at the back, literally.

    Maybe it's because the 'keepers at top teams get tested less in match situations? Lower down in the league a 'keeper such as Kirkland up at Wigan is forced to make several top class saves each match, due to the paucity of the defending.

    Put the Dutch lad Van der Sar into the Burnley team, and I don't think they'd be doing so well.

  • Comment number 61.

    #60

    Didn't "the Dutch lad" Van Der Sar do very well at Fulham for a number of years???

  • Comment number 62.

    I do understand what you're saying but how you can keep having a dig at Van Der Sar is a bit wierd, he's been inspirational for man Utd since joing from Fulham. The best since the great dane left for sure.

  • Comment number 63.

    Interesting read. If I was an Arsenal fan I'd be slightly worried by the fact he talks in hellish terms of having to do a bit of training...

    I guess it shows why Bolton are blessed with a great keeper in Jaaskelainen, who'd probably walk into Arsenal's team and a back-up in Al Habsi who'd probably run Almunia close for a place in the team.

  • Comment number 64.

    Very good to hear this guy being talked about. I'm a Norwich fan, and he (I can neither spell or pronounce his name) is the best goalkeeper I've seen at Carrow Road this season. In January, we beat Brentford 1-0 to go top of the league, but it could have been 3 or 4 had it not been for the fellow's incredible saves. They were world class. I hope he goes far.

  • Comment number 65.

    This guy is sensational. There is a 5 minute and 37 second long video on you tube of highlights. It is entitled "The Pole in Goal". There are training saves interspersed with saves made in competitive matches for Brentford. The fourth match save is similar to Gordon Banks famous world cup save. Anyone can see that this man will be a world class keeper. Wenger should bring him back now. Arsenal need him now.

  • Comment number 66.

    They said all this about Fabianski too. He IS a talented goalie - just makes mistakes!
    Let's not forget Almunia is a very good 'keeper too but just does not have the authority and presence.
    Mannone does.
    So where does this leave us - with 4 good goalies but none great.

  • Comment number 67.

    Couldn't agree more with the article and most of the comments. Having nothing new to add, I offer a bit of help in a slightly different matter: I believe it has to be quite hard for non polish speakers to pronounce his name right. So, to help yourselves out, imagine instead of Wojciech Szczęsny you can see something like Voytcheh Shtchesny and here you go with almost perfect pronunciation. There is still "ę" in his name, but I have no idea how you could spell it in english. Wiki says it's nasal e, but it's a bit more complicated than that.
    Spelling his name right may yet prove itself useful in the future! Cheers from Poland.

  • Comment number 68.

    i think he's at the right club if he wants a goal keeping place ;)

  • Comment number 69.

    If he's that good why the hell hasn't Wenger recalled him before now!?!?!

  • Comment number 70.

    First of all , Pepe Reina is clearly the best goalkeeper in the premiership , and in the top 3 in the world.

    another thing that struck me about this article is ' the new Casillas ?'.

    There is so many things wrong with this statement, his style is the reverse of casillas , but hey Casillas is the best goalkeeper in the world, so lets just say he is like him , without actually analysing there styles of goalkeeping. Casillas is 5 ft 11 , has quick reactions , as quick as any i've ever seen, however he rarely comes for crosses , and doesn't dominate his box , this isn't a criticsm of Casillas , he just plays to his strengths, and does it very well. Szczesny on the other hand , dominates his box , is 6 ft 4 , covers his goal well , he is nothing like Casillas. When i've seen him though he has been very impressive.

  • Comment number 71.

    It's not the first good one article Paul, keep it up!

    We had many good goalkeepers eg. Tomaszewski, Młynarczyk (won the champ. league with porto in 87 I think), Szczęsny. Schmeichel is also from Polish origins. And as PolakZPolski mentioned Mr. Dowhań is the reason why we have some good goalkeepers. Don't think you know that but he could have been Arsenals goalkeeping coach now. It was I think in 2007 Arsenal made an attempt to persuade to take this post.

    Szczęsny played against Canada because he's that good. Ted said exactly why he and not Dudek or Boruc. Kuszczak will never be good goalie until he prove it in man utd or somewhere against Bulgaria (last friendly) he was awful while Fabiański is as good as Szczęsny imo but he's a "too nice guy". If his character would be the same as Lehmanns then he would be ours nr 1 no doubt. In the national team he was in front of Boruc in some games even he played really well for Celtic and most of you still remember his save against wigan in league cup I think. it wasn't one off.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well no, he is not the new Casillas. That's Akinfeev of CSKA. He may be the new Schmeichel however, much mire similar keeper.

  • Comment number 73.

    We can't wait for 2 years for this guy to get experiance we need a top keeper now either play him or sign someone how about Craig Gordon plenty of experiance at premier league and international level.

  • Comment number 74.

    "We can't wait for 2 years for this guy to get experiance we need a top keeper now either play him or sign someone how about Craig Gordon plenty of experiance at premier league and international level."

    wenger isn't going to buy any one without selling until the stadium loan is paid off. sadly almunia is our keeper until then.

  • Comment number 75.

    hmm ok he shows early promise, but with fabianski and mannone both under 25, this guy has gota prove himself to be something special to convince wenger to move him up the pecking order
    theres no good being a 4th choice goalkeeper
    i reckon this goalie would do good on a season long somewhere else in the prem wher he can prove himself then wenger can judge him

  • Comment number 76.

    He deserves a chance at the top level. He will be our [Poland's] number one in a few years.

  • Comment number 77.

    Just watched the you tube video he looks good best get him back and put pressure on the other two.

  • Comment number 78.

    Having seen this guy play every other week down at Griffin Park, I can safely say that he is the best shot stopper and one-on-one keeper I have seen in a long time. He is 19 so probably too young even for Wenger to put into the first team at Arsenal...but at Brentford we are more than happy with that! He brings an air of confidence that is passed onto every player on the pitch. One for the future, for sure...

    (by the way, Brentford are confortably mid-table and not 'near the bottom of their league')

  • Comment number 79.

    I agree with Paul Fletcher. And not because of my nationality - I'm from Poland. I think he will be playing on the highest world level - maybe for Arsenal? He quickly debuted in Polish national team (he played only for 45 minutes, but very well). And I'd like to remind that his father, Maciej Szczesny was also a goalkeeper, but only in Polish league (Legia Warsaw). He was watching the debut of his son and he was very happy. Now we don't know when we will se him again playing for Poland. We rather expect come back of Artur Boruc.

  • Comment number 80.

    @49 - actually it is mate, scandanavia is the collective name given to the three Nordic peninsulas.

    Great article though mate, love a gd goalie prospect!!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Now then,

    Many thanks for all the comments. Sorry I have not responded earlier but it is my heavily pregnant wife's birthday today and, trust me, you do want to get on the wrong side of a woman so far down the line towards the Big Day......

    So, instead of locking on to some heavy-duty banter I have spent most of today shopping and sipping afternoon tea in Claridges. Touch out of my class to be honest but interesting nonetheless.

    Reading through the comments I reckon several themes come to light. Firstly, Arsenal fans generally haven't seen all that much of them (in truth there has not been much to see) but have heard that he is a real prospect.

    Secondly, Brentford fans and various other supporters of League One clubs have seen him in action and are hugely impressed.

    Thirdly, the word is clearly out about him in Poland. Thanks to all the Polish fans who have posted. The Polish fans who have seen him clearly rate him and have come back to respond to all the English fans who have suggested he will struggle to move above the other good Polish keepers.

    Wojciech (apparently a fairly common name in Poland) was hugely self-confident but in fairness to him he knows it - and unlike many other sports stars can laugh at himself.

    I had been told to ask him about ballroom dancing and, when I did so, he rolled his eyes but was happy to chat about it. Apparently from 7-10 he did a lot of it and reckons it really helped with his flexibility and co-ordination. I was really trying to fit the ballroom dancing chat into the piece but could not find anywhere to crow bar it in.

    When you watch a lot of interviews with footballers these days they are, frankly, boring. This is definitely not the case with him and he will be a breath of fresh air if he makes it to the top.

  • Comment number 82.

    As a keeper i take the height issue very very personally. People love to rave about height this and height that however you can be around 6 ft and still be a top quality keeper by merely compensating with good communication and reflexes. If you have a defence that is prepared to attack the ball and you agree not to claim crosses then that should be fine. Given is a top top quality stopper and has a system where he leaves most crosses top the defence- his ability in other areas more than compensates. I'm 5ft10 and as long as you have two trustworthy, aerial centre backs and a good understanding with the defence you should fine (im leading the clean sheets this season due to the ability of the defence- i just dont come and claim). The height issue is a myth as is kicking; they're not primary requirements in any way.

    On another note Szczesny has the confidence which is the MOST IMPORTANT fas-set of goalkeeping and is why i think he'll succeed. Many fantastic goalkeepers have bottled it a key times due to a lack of confidence and this can manifest itself in rash decisions which unsettle the defence and lead to mistakes. A lack of confidence is often mistaken for a lack of concentration and ergo criticising goalkeepers is another pet hate: Its very easy for pundits and fans to jump on the back of a keeper and this leads ultimately to worse performances. I used to play for Brighton and Hove through the youth stages however often found myself bottling it when it came to games where i didnt have my settled defence or was under excess pressure- this manifested itself in mistakes (eventually why i was released).

    Fabianski's a good keeper, with the right nurturing and support- he, Mannone and Szczesny will be battling for Arsenal's number one jersey for years to come!

  • Comment number 83.

    Like a comment said, the REAL star of Polish football is Radoslaw Majewski.

    Good read though

  • Comment number 84.

    Very good read Paul, glad to have come accross your blog.
    Besides, glad to hear so many positive if not enthusiastic reviews on my compatriot's performances. Think that they are spot-on, especially when Wojciech's (a fairly common name in Poland indeed, not for the new born babies though :) confidence is concerned. That is what gives him the edge over some other, perhaps equally talented, goaltenders. That is also a feature at which Wojciech resembles his father Maciej (an intelligent loud-mouthed goallie, head above the others, he was a Polish champion with four different clubs; think it was in the early 90s when he was expelled during a Cup Winners' Cup game for hitting an opponent who wanted to collect a ball from his net in the face...).
    On another note, fingers crossed for your wife and yourself in anticipation of the Big Day! Hope everyting goes very well!
    All the very best!

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm a big fan of Szczesny and expressed my opinion in a few Arsenal blogs already that I have no doubt he will become Arsenal's nr. 1. He is a special talent and being very level headed he should be able to climb the ranks quite quickly despite his young age. Can't wait to see him in Arsenal's nr.1 jersey. A very exciting prospect indeed and you're right that he should be an answer to Arsenal's "goalkeeper problems". Very good read, really enjoyed that!

  • Comment number 86.

    Morning all.

    Don't know whether or not you have seen this but a colleague pointed out that the BBC's regional magazine programme Late Kick Off did a piece with Wojciech recently.

    Well worth watching....

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/london/hi/tv_and_radio/newsid_8492000/8492091.stm

  • Comment number 87.

    #52 Re Your comments. Apologies if I sounded like I was blaming the clubs 'cos I'm not. I totally agree with you that it is a problem with our country and players attitude. However, there are very good goalkeeping academies around but clubs seem reluctant to look beyond what they have. This is to say if a youngster is coming through the ranks they are interested but will not go and see what other potential is there.
    Interestingly it is these boys who have perhaps not in the 'system' who appear to have the most drive and determination (ie they are not paid) and want to play for the sake of playing.
    UNfortunately money is the root of the problem - they have too much too early and forget why they play.
    You are correct with Tennis - what a waste of money the LTA is. Couldn't catch a cold that lot. Talent defines great players not money. Most kids from other countries work very very hard and often from poor backgrounds. Our lot are soft spoilt and not very talented.

  • Comment number 88.

    When I saw this keeper in the carling cup and I think in the pre season, I thought right away he was a better keeper than the ones we have, and I still stand by it. He is different to the three keepers we have had kept our goal this season in the way he keeps. Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone all stretch their arms economically, he doesn't just like the great keepers such as Buffon and Cech don't.

  • Comment number 89.

    I saw him at Elland ROad last Saturday against us and he was quality...someone give him an English passport!

  • Comment number 90.

    # 44
    I think you made a valid point comparing Szczęsny to Boruc. They're quite similar really and both are completely different to Fabiański in terms of character. Yes, it's very important to be confident when you're goalie especially in big club. Reading some interviews with Szczęsny and watching him play looks like he's very confident, I would even say a little bit arrogant (it's visible in Paul article as well with phrase about "love me or hate me" I think.

    Personally I don't like this attitude but it's very important for keeper to be like that. Unfortunately Fabiański personally is shy, quiet guy and I think it's not his ability but character to blame for his failure in Arsenal. Watching him for years before he came to England (oh, I forgot, I'm Pole) believe me he had some breathtaking saves here but I think he simply can't handle pressure connected with playing for such a big club as Arsenal.

    I think that's common for Polish three - Boruc, Kuszczak and Szczęsny -they all are very confident and it looks for me that Szczęsny maybe even to bigger extent than other two.

    Someone asked why he gained his national cap considering the fact Poland has quite fair pool of not bad keepers. Yes, but the problem is - Dudek mentioned earlier lives on the bench and is ending his career. Then Kuszczak is 2nd/3rd choice in United, Fabiański is 2nd in Arsenal, Załuska in Celtic and Polish NT manager simply hates players who don't commit themselves 100 % for football and that implicate he doesn't like overweight Boruc and his nightlife snags.

    Not to mention Polish NT is in rebuilding mode after disastrous WC qualis so there was a chance for Szczęsny. However - I still think Boruc is the best Polish keeper and he'll be back between national posts soon, Kuszczak for me is second and Szczęsny third. So where I rate Szczęsny? I think he has potential to be world class star, no second thoughts and think he's ready for Premier League football now. But don't think he's ready for Arsenal first choice now or other big club.

    But I agree with Paul he may be solution in near future (admittedly while living in Poland I have never hear someone calling Szczęsny "new Casillas"), even though I personally think Almunia is very good keeper. So - for me Szczęsny will be much better than Fabiański and Kuszczak. I also hope he'll manage his career properly as opposed to Boruc who missed his great chance to go to bigger club and slipped to mediocrity along with Celtic. Hopefully that won't be the case with Szczęsny.

    To end it - why Poland produce quite good keepers? Well, because it's easier than to produce many good outfield players (ok, not for England, sorry). You have to have very good youth system to produce many decent outfield players but keepers are different. They're not that much linked to other players and in fact in Poland two very good goalkeeping coaches are enough to produce quite good keepers.

    #45

    No one answered apparently so I'll try. I think Howard is better than Mucha but by slight margin. So Mucha is able to wrestle #1 spot from him and I don't think as Slovak international first choice he will want to sit on the bench in long term. If he won't play then he'll search for new club.

  • Comment number 91.

    The answer to Arsenal's goalkeeping crisis. The answer to Arsenal's lack of steel. The answer to Arsenal's lack of height, maturity, The answer is to be found in Arsene Wenger. The answer is to "believe in Almunia" The answer at the Emirates is "to believe"

  • Comment number 92.

    oh he's fit. I'd tap that.

  • Comment number 93.

    From what I've heard, we chose not to offer him a deal as our 2 academy 'keepers were deemed a better prospect, so him 'opting' for the Gunners may not be quite true (although, in fairness, Arsenal are a much more attractive option). But these 'hellish' training sessions, may just be the reason why Arsenals first choice 'keeper, wouldn't even make our reserve team bench considering we have Ali Al-Habsi and Adam Bogdan (both young) waiting in line for an ageing Jussi to call it a day

    Definitely an area where Arsenal need to strenghten.

  • Comment number 94.

    Cyril,
    goalkeeping is an artform its not so easy. Young keepers always make mistakes and they must learn. Hart at Brum City is the way forward for Fabio he will make mistakes but if we keep faith with him he is the real deal more than Calamity James and Blob Green. Foster isnt getting a game so Hart is the man. I hope Arsene bombs out Almunia and buys big in goal that would be the difference between 2nd and 3rd to top. The whole team will feel the confidence of a tip top keeper and then develop a very very good youngster for Carling cup and when the main man is injured. My choice for numero uno would be Buffon at Juve. Bust the bank and do it Arsene

  • Comment number 95.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.