Arsenal: Addressing the Gunners' Goalkeeping Situation
We're running full-speed towards the start of the new Premier League season, and with little more than a month to go until the first balls are kicked, the rumour mill surrounding Arsenal and potential transfers is, as expected, abuzz.
For the dominant club in north London, one area that has seen a great deal of speculation is at the position of goalkeeper—and whether Wojciech Szczesny, the likeable young Pole, will continue to stand between the sticks at the season's beginning.
Read on for an analysis on the battle between Arsenal's custodians.
At just 23, Wojciech Szczesny (or Szczesny Hawkes to some fans) is still some years away from the prime of his career, and with that in mind, some of his performances between Arsenal's posts have been astonishing.
His most formidable issue in the way of progress is his inconsistency. Szczesny, while having excellent communication (he's come a long way from this... look away, Arsenal fans) is still irritatingly error-prone.
Yet, the only way for Szczesny to improve is to see consistent time on the pitch, playing the full 90 minutes week after week. With transfer rumours abound (via The Mirror) surrounding a potential replacement or competitor for Szczesny's first-team spot (more on him later), this plan looks like it could be in jeopardy.
So what does Arsene Wenger do?
Certainly, Szczesny is some way off the level of excellence set by fellow EPL young stopper David de Gea, but that is not to diminish Szczesny's light. He was a key reason for Arsenal's stout defensive record in the second half of last season, and successfully fought off competition from the likes of Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone to reclaim his spot after injury forced him out.
If Wenger and company do bring in a stopper, he needs to be someone who can force Szczesny to improve through competition. The last thing Le Professeur wants to do is stunt the Pole's growth as a keeper through an ill-planned transfer.
With Vito Mannone having packed his bags and set off up the M1 to Wearside, the second-place goalkeeper is without a doubt Lukasz Fabianski.
Szczesny's compatriot has seen occasional time between the sticks since his move from his native Poland to the Emirates Stadium six years ago. However, in that time he has unfortunately been unable to break through into the first-team for a prolonged period of time—be it down to injury, lack of form or the inspired form of others, Fabianski has never proved himself more than just a reliable backup.
For half of his time at Arsenal, his greatest rival was the much-maligned Manuel Almunia, which should give you some idea of the man from the Polish-German border's struggles.
The only way that Fabianski will see regular time at Arsenal is if the Gunners' No. 1 is beset by injury once more.
Of course, if a certain Brazilian comes along, that might not happen at all.
Oftentimes during Queens Park Rangers' catastrophic 2012-13 campaign, there was one star player trying to keep things together. That man was Brazil's international stopper Julio Cesar.
In fine form during a season which had little to celebrate for the Hoops, Cesar is openly available for transfer, with Harry Redknapp preferring to start Robert Green when life in the Championship begins.
While early rumours had Arsenal sighting the likes of Rui Patricio of Sporting Lisbon and Rene Adler of Hamburg SV to compete with Szczesny, Cesar is, of the three, arguably the best stopper and the best fit for Arsenal.
At 33, Cesar is still in the prime of his career, and although nearing the twilight, many of his performances before the Loftus Road faithful in his first season in England brought few critics. With at least a few years to go before he considers reaching for the pipe and slippers of retirement, Cesar could provide Szczesny with much-needed competition and certainly start in his stead.
This all makes for fascinating material to think about over the next month, but what should Wenger do about this situation?
In my mind, Cesar would be an excellent addition, to promote competition between himself and Szczesny and to upgrade the squad at goalkeeper. Any quality player is welcome at Arsenal.
The only real point to question this transfer with is whether putting Szczesny behind Cesar for a prolonged period of time—a couple of years, for example—will truly stunt Szczesny's growth and prohibit him from becoming the world-beating goalkeeper he just might turn out to be.
With upgrades needed more desperately elsewhere, it might be wise for Wenger to keep faith in his current custodian for the time being. But with Cesar being a commodity much in demand, it could prove Wenger's only chance to acquire a world-class goalkeeper for such a small fee.
But what do you make of all this? Let me know—hit me up with a comment below, or follow me on Twitter @callumlarr.