Tag Archives: Wojciech Szczesny

Sayonara, Szczęsny: loan to Roma might equal an Arsenal adieu…

Wojciech Szczęsny has agreed to a season-long loan to Serie A’s Roma, but the deal apparently does not allow Roma a £3.5 million buy-out clause, implying that Szczęsny would return to Arsenal for next season. On its face, the deal might make sense as it gives him a chance to play ahead of De Sanctis (38 y.o.), Lobont (37), and Švedkauskas (21). It both strips Szczęsny of the comfort he’s enjoyed over the last few seasons while allowing him to play and develop, albeit without the mentoring and modeling that Petr Čech would offer. That brings me to my stunning realisation…

This loan is a prelude to shipping Szczęsny out.

After being benched for a short stint in 2012-13, Szczęsny ended sitting out almost half of the 2014-15 season after getting caught smoking in the changing room after his own errors allowed Southampton to beat us 2-0. It’s one thing to smoke while out on the town amongst mates, but to do so in the changing room all but dares Arsène to make a move. Szczęsny ended up watching as Ospina did tolerably well as we climbed to as high as second, however, briefly. When he did come on in FA Cup matches, he failed to convince, and we now have Čech as our presumptive #1 goalkeeper.

The original impression was that Čech’s arrival would offer Szczęsny motivation, mentorship, and modeling, and it would be Ospina out the door on his way to Fenerbahçe. Perhaps Arsène didn’t want to provide van Persie any help. Instead of the Čech-Szczęsny partnership, though, I wonder if we’ve seen the last of the latter. Put simply, our recent history of loaning out players doesn’t work in Szczęsny’s favour. Setting aside youth-products, the last five years of loans suggests that Arsène uses them as a polite way to ease a player out or dispense with him entirely. In those last five years, only two senior players from twelve who have been loaned out have made a successful return to the club: Ramsey and Coquelin. Among the departed: Mannone, Vela, Frimpong, Arshavin, Chamakh, Santos, Djourou, Park, Bendtner, and Podolski. On the bubble are Campbell and Jenkinson.

Ostensibly, a loan offers a young player a better chance at regular playing time in order to develop before returning to his parent club. In many of the cases listed above, that was occasionally true, but in just as many, something different occurred, as the loaned-out player simply left Arsenal. Out-of-favour players who had logged significant minutes in the Prem—such as Santos, Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner, and Podolski—were deemed superfluous or not quite good enough.

Back to Szczęsny. While his loan is set for one year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn a year from now he’s been sold, whether to Roma or some other club. After all, Čech probably has as many as five years of top-quality performance in him. By the point that he’s showing signs of his age, another Arsenal keeper should be ready, having absorbed all of that motivation, mentorship, and modeling that might have been intended for Szczęsny. No, not Ospina. I’m referring to Emi Martínez. He’s 22 and has shown flashes of potential. While these are not quite apples-to-apples, they still offer food for thought:

  • At Anderlecht in the first leg, Martínez conceded just one goal. 
  • At home against Anderlecht in the second, Szczęsny conceded three.
  • At Dortmund in the first leg, Szczęsny conceded two goals.
  • At home against Dortmund in the second, Martínez kept a clean sheet.
Again, these stats can’t stand as a direct comparison, but there’s still something in them to consider. Szczęsny, for all of his cock-potential, still doesn’t convince. In fact, if anything, he unnerves. By contrast, Čech, in his two appearances, has already inspired greater confidence (even if it was against Singapore and Everton…then again, if confident performances against those two inspire confidence, Szczęsny’s problems are profound indeed).
Arsène has stood by Szczęsny through thick and thin, but there’s been a gradual progression in how he’s handled Szczęsny’s misdeeds. 2012-13: bench the lad briefly. 2014-15: bench him for half the season. 2015-16: loan him out. What’s next for Szczęsny? Will he be brought back into the fold, or will he be sold?

Jump down to the comments-section to share your thoughts!

Arsenal transfer round-up: Szcz to Roma, Flamini to Gala, but who's coming in?

According to the very-reliable Di Marzio, Wojciech Szczęsny is set for a loan to Roma, with the Italian club offering £715,000 or so for the loan and a £7.15m option to buy him at the end of the 2015-16 season. Coupled with news that Mathieu Flamini has signed for Galatasaray (joining Podolski) and Diaby not being offered a contract, we’re seeing a clear-out just as aggressive if not more so than last summer’s, when we parted ways in various ways with Sagna, Vermaelen, Bendtner, Djourou, and Fabiański, among others. Those who were once good enough are being replaced. Should Szczęsny indeed be loaned out, Arsène would indeed be staking a claim to a more-aggressive agenda, one that should strike fear into our opponents’ hearts.

Szczęsny, after all, has been one of his pet-projects, a mercurial player capable by turns of jaw-dropping saves and heart-stopping flubs, and Arsène has stood by the Pole through thick and thin. To hear that Szcz might be loaned out, with an option to buy, suggests that Arsène has bolder plans in mind. It’s one thing to part ways with an ageing stalwart like Sagna or misfits like Bendtner or Djourou. Even after the signing of Čech, the assumption has been that Szcz would stay to learn from and be challenged by Čech while Ospina is sold to Fenerbahçe. We’ll have to wait and see whether this pans out and what it means for Szcz and Ospina, not to mention Emi Martínez.

In other news, Mathieu Flamini has apparently broken a record (or a principle) by signing with Galatasaray for a £4m transfer-fee. This would mark the first time in Flamini’s professional career that a transfer fee would be paid for Flamini. In each of his previous transfers, he’s let his contract run down and left on a Bosman. Curioser and curioser, £4m would be far more than we got for Podolski (£1.75m) or that Man U got from Fenerbahçe for van Persie (£3.85m). Seeing van Persie get scythed down by Flamini? Priceless.

In news less-stirring but more-certain, of course, we’ve loaned Jenkinson to West Ham and Sanogo to Ajax. With Bellerín’s continued growth and the return of Debuchy, Jenkinson is all but surplus to requirements, and joining West Ham for a second season makes sense. Sanogo to Ajax is similarly sensible, although it does leave us a bit thin at striker. Behind Giroud, we now have only Welbeck as a “proven” alternative, with Joel Campbell finishing a loan-spell to Villareal and now a tranfer-target of Real Sociedad, and Walcott and Alexis as wingers who can occasionally play through the middle against certain opponents.

The departure of Flamini and loan of Sanogo raises hopes that Arsène will bring in direct replacements. After all, upgrades at defensive midfield and striker have been among our most-desperate desires. Could we still see Benzema arrive? It’s possible. The signing of Čech was a signal of intent, even if less-dramatic on its face than those of Özil or Alexis. To hear that Szczęsny might be the one to make way does raise the stakes a bit.

We might be seeing a new era, one in which we only sell and buy when we want to, not when we have to. Who then might we buy?

Arsène LIED to Szczęsny, keeper is "devasted"!

According to former Poland national goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, Arsène Wenger lied to Wojciech Szczęsny over the lad’s future as Arsenal’s #1 keeper, deluding and damaging Szczęsny so much that his future with Arsenal and the Polish national team are now in doubt. The arrival of Petr Čech, according to Tomaszewski, has “devastated” Szczęsny. This seems to fit an emerging pattern in which other people associated with Szczęsny make boneheaded remarks that, if anything, only complicate matters for the very player they are purportedly trying to help. To Tomaszewski, then, I say,głupie gadanie!

Let’s first plow through Tomaszewski’s accusations, er, assertions:

In January, I spoke to [Poland manager] Adam Nawalka and he said that Arsène Wenger had told him that if Szczęsny worked hard in training he would play again soon. It turned out that he didn’t tell the truth. I’m sure that when Szczęsny said that he was going to stay at Arsenal, he didn’t know that Čech was going to come because Wenger didn’t tell him about his plans. Szczęsny should leave, because it will be waste of time for him, if he stays…after Čech’s transfer he has no chance to play at Arsenal and for Poland. It could be end of his career in national team.

First of all, we’ve got a bit of a grapevine to weed through. Tomaszewski says that Nawalka says that Wenger said. Second, let’s talk the resulting message at face value: “if Szczęsny worked hard.” Tomaszewski takes this to mean that Szczęsny did in fact work hard. Was he there watching Arsenal train on a regular basis? Somehow, I doubt it. To blithely assume that Szczęsny trained hard and accuse Arsène of lying stretches credulity a bit.

“In January” we were thumped by Southampton, after which Szczęsny was found smoking in the shower and fined £25k. He was allowed to continue playing in our FA Cup matches anyway, playing a role in us winning it, so, Jan, he did play again soon even if not in the Prem. Had his performances in the FA Cup inspired greater confidence, he might have seen his stock rise again. As it stands, he was a bit shaky at times while Ospina continued to play well enough to keep the starter’s role. If Szczęsny assumed that Ospina, like Fabiański, Mannone, and others, would be shipped out, that’s his own fault, not Arsène’s. Instead of taking a page from Fabiański’s playbook—deliver some stirring performances that inspire the squad to victory—Szczęsny had been listless and lacklustre. That there are rumours around Ospina leaving rather than him is a testament to Arsène’s continued faith in Szczęsny.

Instead of seeing Čech for what he could be, Tomaszewski is playing the role of Henny Penny, seeing crises where there are none. Szczęsny can no longer assume that the starter’s role is his, as he’s been able to do for most of the last five years. That’s not necessarily a Bad Thing. It should light a fire under Szczęsny, motivating to train like he’s never trained before. I emphasize “should.”

It should expose Szczęsny to the tutelage of a world-class keeper, the likes of whom he’s never gotten to play alongside during his entire time at Arsenal. The challenges issued by Almunia, Mannone, Fabiański, Lehmann, and Ospina never seemed to be more than stop-gaps, slaps on the wrist, or other piddling obstacles to Szczęsny’s reign. This had to have convinced him, subconcsiously or otherwise, that all he had to was be a little better than those guys. That’s been just good enough for a squad that aspires to live on the brink of Champions League qualification but not nearly good enough for a squad that aspires to something higher.

Čech’s arrival does not loom like storm clouds over Szczęsny’s career. If anything, it should shine like a beacon. From him, Szczęsny will learn how to fight for a spot, how to position himself, how to command his area, how to win. If he can’t or won’t, well, Arsène will have told him the truth in the first place.

Szczęsny welcomes Čech to Arsenal…

LONDON COLNEY—Wojciech wasn’t feeling quite himself. For years—almost his entire time at Arsenal, really—he’d come to rely on a certain sense of security, borne of knowing that he’d be the #1 goalkeeper. Yes, there’d been blips on the radar. Lehmann. Almunia. Mannone. Fabianski. Ospina. Through it all, though, he’d known. Whatever the setback, however many howlers, the position was his as long as he didn’t let it slip through his fingers, much like a keeper might let an actual ball slip…it was then, mid-simile, when he came to grips with reality. Those other men, they were journeymen, stewards at best, called upon only when he grew weary of the pressure of possessing so much potential. This, though, was different. This Petr Čech has been and is still a rock on which one can build. With that in mind, Wojciech approached the man.


     “Hm? Oh, hello! I am Petr.”
     “Yes, I know. I am Wojciech. I’m delighted to have a chance to learn from one of the best goalkeepers in the world!”
     “Ah. Yes. Thank you.”
     “I posted that to facebook, by the way. Millions of people will see this. I think I have more than 2,434,184 likes.”
     “Aha. That is good.”
     “Yeah, well, so am I. I’m a pretty good keeper. I won the Golden Glove last year.”
     “Um, so did I. It was for me the third time.”
     “Really? Good for you. It must be easy when your entire squad parks the bus, am I right?” He realised that his own laughter was a bit too loud.
     “Well, yes, it is true that the defense deserves much of the credit. However, I—”
     “I mean, come on. Terry? Cahill? Azpilicueta and Ivanović? Those guys are beasts! Put me behind them and I’ll keep clean sheets week after week after—”
     Čech raised his hand slowly but with the authority of a prophet. Instantly, Szczęsny was still, a sense of calm deeper than any he’d ever felt before settling into the deepest reaches of his soul. His smirk slackened; awe spread across his face like the sun rising over a pond. “It’s not quite that simple,” Čech intoned, “alone, yes, each of them is stalwart. However, even together, they need guidance in functioning as a unit. Each of them is distracted, their minds forever busied by innumerable tasks.
     “They need someone to see all and be all behind them, someone who draws his strength from a source deeper than speed or reflex, someone who knows the game.”
     At this, Szczęsny recoiled as if he had been punched in the face.
     “It is not enough to make the occasional save. To be a keeper, one must become one with the ball and sense, if not know, where it is trying to go. It is not unlike the Golden Snitch of Quidditch. To catch it, one must understand that it wants to go home—it wants to find the back of the net. The question a keeper must always ask himself is this: ‘which net will it find?’ When a keeper can answer that for himself, then and only then can he call himself an actual keeper.”
     Szczęsny scoffed. “What’s the big deal? All you have to do is stand there and wait. If someone shoots, you try to block it. If you can’t, it’s like ‘so what? Great shot.’ If you can, everyone’s all like ‘awesome! Great save!’ It’s win-win, the way I see it. If they score, it’s not down to me. If they don’t, it’s because of me.”
     “To an extent, this is true. In many cases, a goal conceded is the fault of all eleven. However, the best keepers—a title I do not claim for myself—instruct, command, and demand of those in front of them that they deny their opponents a chance. At Chelsea, it is true that those in front of me were among the best in business. However, they functioned as a unit because I told them to.”
     Szczęsny took a moment to take this in. “Wait,” he exclaimed, “you mean that we can tell the defenders what to do?”
     “Whoa. All this time, I’ve been just standing between the sticks, you know, watching and waiting for a chance to make a highlight-reel save. Thomas and Per and Laurent or whoever would run around, and I would just wait for a chance to dive dramatic-like to save the day. You’re telling me I can tell them what to do, as in ‘stay in front of that guy’ or ‘don’t touch Hazard in the box ‘cuz he’ll dive faster than the Greek economy’. Whoa. That’s heavy.”
     “I think you’re ready.”
     “Ready to transcend ‘potential’ and start delivering ‘performance.'”

Čech CONFIRMED as Arsenal ROCK Chelsea's title hopes

Petr Čech has been all but confirmed at Arsenal, with SkySports reporting that a £10.9m fee has been agreed, “sources say,” which almost certainly refers to a reporter who interviewed this one guy who was talking to a taxi-driver whose brother’s nephew once played for the Academy has this sister whose hairdresser’s uncle was in a pub and overheard the words “Čech,” “fee,” and “agreed.” On a more serious note, it looks to be a cash-only deal, meaning that we won’t be parting with any players, homegrown or otherwise, to appease Mourinho. That’s right. It appears that Arsène may have finally out-manoeuvred Mourinho, if only off the pitch. Whether that carries onto the pitch remains to be seen.

Is Čech the “world class” signing of the summer, carrying on the tradition established by Özil and continued by Alexis? At first blush, perhaps not. That £10.9m fee pales in comparison to the £44m paid for Özil and the £38m paid for Alexis. Even if we’re talking about a keeper, a position that usually commands much-lower fees than those for attacking players, there’s a bit of a fall-off, if only financially. In terms of class, however, one would be hard-pressed to find a better keeper. Casillas, sadly, is fading. Buffon might have just a year or two left. If you’re going to suggest de Gea, Neuer, or Courtois, you might need to get your head checked.

Simply put, it’s rare that a player of Čech’s quality is made available, and for him to be sold to a cross-town rival is monumental. It would be difficult to find two clubs and two managers whose philosophies differ more fundamentally than Chelsea-Arsenal, Mourinho-Wenger. Heck, Čech has been a keeper at Chelsea longer than most fans have supported the club. For him to leave that club signifies a seismic shift—of sorts. While it’s true that his (apparent) signing could add as many as 15 points to our season’s haul, according to none other than John Terry, we still have a bit of business to see to.
In the short term, Čech brings a winner’s attitude, control of his area, and mentorship (and a challenge) to Szczęsny. That should boost our ambitions, if not our performance. How much will it undermine Chelsea’s? Too hard to quantify. If Terry is right in suggesting that Arsenal could add 15 points, it stands to reason that Chelsea could drop points. A half-dozen? If we picked up those 15, we’d finish with 90 points—more than enough to outpace Chelsea’s 87. If Courtois relaxes even a little bit after Čech leaves, Chelsea would drop points, easing our path to the Prem title.
If Čech does indeed join Arsenal, we have to be prepared for Chelsea to hit back—and hit back hard. Spurned in his attempt at snatching one of our homegrown players, Mourinho will want to find homegrown players from elsewhere. Apparently discontented with Diego Costa’s contributions, he might go after Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, or Wayne Rooney, among others. Mourinho and Abramovich won’t be cowed by FFP considerations. Count on Mourinho to demand the best that money can buy, especially after having been apparently overruled on Čech’s transfer to Arsenal.
Therefore, it becomes all the more imperative that we find players willing to come to Arsenal. Fortunately, the signing of Čech should send a signal of intent to players and clubs. We’re now just a signing or two away from winning the Prem and perhaps driving deep into the Champions League. Who wants to be that next player to join Arsenal, to launch a storied club in the world’s toughest league towards glory? The current climate runs against financial malfeasance, and by that standard Arsenal stands head and shoulders above its rivals, be they Chelsea, Man City or Man U; or Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, or Bayern.

In other words, the signing of Čech should not and cannot signal the end of our dealings. If anything, it should pave a path towards a few more signings. Who, then, should it be?