Before the close of the transfer window at the end of August, the big questions surrounding Arsenal were the goalkeeping and central defensive positions.
The problems in central defense was addressed with the signings of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci. And with Thomas Vermaelen with a seemingly permanent stranglehold over the other centre back position, the defense seemed pretty set.
The goalkeeping situation, on the other hand, was a verifiable mess, no matter what Arsene Wenger thought at the time—he once said, "We have four great keepers and it is important we give confidence to them for the next game."
In fact, as the end of the transfer window approached, every Gooner worldwide hoped and prayed for one of Mark Schwarzer, Shay Given, Marten Stekelenburg, or even more audaciously, Gianluigi Buffon.
At the time, they were probably right to wish for these keepers because it seemed like they were better than anyone on the team.
But hindsight is 20/20. My how times have changed.
Towards the end of last season and for most of the preseason, Arsenal's top two goalkeepers faced a barrage of criticism for their lackluster performances. 25-year-old Fabianski made a number of high profile gaffes that deservedly earned him the nickname "Flappy"anski.
But it seems that all he needed was some game time, a little encouragement and some confidence to truly show how good he is.
Almunia went down with a mysterious elbow injury almost immediately after a disastrous (with a bright spot of a penalty save) day at work against West Bromwich Albion Sept. 25 of this year. Regardless of whether the injury is real or fake, the result was Fabianski's promotion to the starting 11.
If Arsenal fans were asked about the prospect of having Fabianski in between the sticks before October, most would be unanimous in their protest, instead calling for the services of either Vito Mannone or Wojciech Szczesny despite their inexperience.
But now, Fabianski's recent brilliant performances—his gaffe against Newcastle during the weekend notwithstanding—have inspired much more confidence in his teammates and the Arsenal fanbase. He has finally showed that he can compete for the number one spot, even if Wenger sees him eventually giving way to his younger compatriot.
He's not perfect—he is still not that confident in the air, and could probably punch with more conviction—but where he is now is a far cry from where he was a few months ago, which, if the Arsenal fans had their way, would have been with another club.
Thankfully, Wenger is too smart and wise to act on a whim and his trust looks like it's finally paying dividends.
On the other side of things, while Mannone languishes on the bench during his loan spell with Hull City, Polish goalie sensation Wojciech Szczesny is starting for Arsenal's Carling Cup team and reminding Wenger, and everyone else, why he is so highly rated.
He has all the makings of a great keeper and Wenger sees him as one for the long-term future of the club.
He has the physical tools. He is 6'5". He has quick reflexes and amazing concentration.
But more importantly for a goalkeeper, he has the attitude. He is confident and he has a short memory, not dwelling on past mistakes, and always looking forward to the next play, the next shot, and the next stop on goal.
Prior to the beginning of the season, the prudent move for his development would have been to loan him to Championship side, or if one was willing to start him, to a Premiership side. A keeper needs to play and face the best to be prepared for the worst after all.
There was just one small problem. His contract was up at the end of the season, and sending him out on loan would have slowed down, or at worst, prevented negotiations (and also allow other teams to see how good he was, thereby raising his value and bringing in other teams who might want to sign him and play him).
That led to a small spat, but highly publicized spat with Wenger, and questions about his future at the Emirates.
Thankfully, Szczesny has a good head on his shoulders and appears to love the club as much as true fans love the prospect of him as number one for the future for years to come. He signed a new deal last night that will keep him with the club until 2015, right about the time when Chelsea's stars start to decline and retire, and when Arsenal's young guns expect to fully mature into their talents.
Before the season began, the question was "where is our new goalkeeper?" In hindsight, that was a silly question.
"Goalkeeping problem? What goalkeeping problem?"
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