Do Arsenal Need a New Goalkeeper to Replace Wojciech Szczęsny This Summer?
When Lukasz Fabianski returned to fitness after several months on the sidelines, there was a bit of a stir in the Arsenal blogosphere.
For the first time this season, Wojciech Szczesny, the automatic starter between the posts, would have some legitimate competition.
And not some sort of fake, you're-here-because-we-don't-have-anyone-better competition like Vito Mannone. Rather, someone who has the talent, if not always the consistency, to be Arsenal's starting goalkeeper.
When Szczesny's performances grew flat and failed to inspire the confidence that they did previously, Arsene Wenger was ready to draft Fabianski into the side. And not for any old fixture either: Just a Champions League match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Arsenal won and kept a clean sheet. Against this Bayern Munich team.
There are a multitude of reasons why the Gunners won 2-0 on the day, but Fabianski's performance was so impressive that he retained his place in the team and only recently relinquished it after suffering a rib injury.
The Pole looks set to leave at the end of the season, but his little spell in the team is a reminder that healthy competition produces the best result for the team, regardless of who is on the pitch.
When Szczesny returned to the starting XI against Everton, he was solid and a reassuring presence once again. He has not conceded a goal in his last two games.
Here is where a distinction needs to be made, however. Szczesny is still a very good goalkeeper; he just fell victim to fatigue and the trap of complacency, which resulted from the fact that he was the only viable option in goal.
One could make a case for replacing him if he showed that the hugely encouraging displays early in his Arsenal career were aberrations. If the talent or consistency had gone, the Gunners should look in a different direction.
All he needs is a little challenge from an experienced player.
It's easy to forget just how young Szczesny is. He's already played over 100 times for Arsenal, yet only just turned 23 on April 18.
That's young by any standard, but he is a mere infant in goalkeeping years. Goalies usually hit their primes in their early-30s, and Szczesny is already one of the better players at his position in England.
Why would Arsenal want to replace him? Szczesny threatened to leave in search of more playing time before even making his Premier League debut, so he would certainly not be very pleased to see another world-class goalkeeper walk through the door.
Arsenal should obviously not kowtow to any player, but there is no reason to push Szczesny out the door based on his performances this season, unless someone like Manuel Neuer miraculously became available at a reasonable price.
In the absence of divine intervention, Arsenal are best served by wringing the most out of Szczesny's considerable talent.
To do that, the club should purchase a goalkeeper this summer—just not a starter.
An experienced backup who can legitimately challenge Szczesny for his place, and is able to give him a rest once in a while, would do the job quite nicely.
Even Arsene Wenger's accountant wouldn't balk at that.
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