5 Reasons Wojciech Szczesny Is Arsenal's Most Disappointing Player This Season
Wojciech Szczesny is very deserving of the "Arsenal's most disappointing player this season" label. Whether it's his cavalier attitude, or the rants of his father, Szczesny has been a consistent letdown.
The young Polish goalkeeper has simply not delivered on his early promise. By now he should categorically be established as Arsenal's No.1 between the posts.
However, a growing list of embarrassing errors is just one reason why Szczesny's future should remain uncertain. Here is the full list of reasons why Arsene Wenger would be foolish not to recruit Szczesny's replacement this summer.
5. He's Not Progressing, He's Regressing
The night Szczesny made his first-team debut, on December 13th, 2010, seemed like a watershed moment for Arsenal. Fans were understandably nervous that an untested youngster was being pressed into action against Manchester United.
Yet Szczesny was not at all fazed by facing the Red Devils at Old Trafford. He made a series of impressive saves, denying Wayne Rooney with athletic and commanding stops more than once.
Despite a narrow defeat, Szczesny seemed like manna from heaven for the Gunners. They had spent too long suffering frayed nerves thanks to the blundering of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.
However, now the team had a quality 'keeper again and one so young. At least, that's how the story should read.
In reality, Szczesny has failed to build on that early promise shown away to United. He has struggled to convince in the near two-and-a-half seasons in which he's been unchallenged as Arsenal's No.1.
A string of errors, most notably in the Carling Cup final later in that same debut season, have blighted his development. In the 2011/12 campaign, Szczesny was an ever-present in the back five that conceded 49 goals in the English Premier League.
It has become fashionable to place the blame for such failings entirely on the defence. However, quality 'keepers sometimes earn their teams points and compensate for defensive frailty.
Shay Given used to do that back in his Newcastle United days, and Mark Schwarzer has routinely bailed out Fulham. Szczesny has not become that kind of reliable, confidence-inspiring figure for the Gunners.
Instead, he has regressed into the same inconsistency that has crippled Wenger's attempts to construct youthful, trophy-winning squads.
4. Individual Errors Are Now so Frequent, It's Easy to Expect Them
Szczesny has quickly become a player it's easy to expect a mistake from. That same feeling can be applied to every goalkeeper Arsenal have fielded since Jens Lehmann.
Yet Szczesny was supposed to be different. However, his habit for costly calamity—that first surfaced at Wembley in February, 2011—has frequently been evident this season.
His first appearance for the team, after suffering injury in preseason, was an ominous sign of things to come. Although Arsenal trounced Southampton 6-1, the lone goal they conceded was the fault of more cavalier play from their careless young goalkeeper.
Szczesny came for a punt into the box and the ball seemed to be easily in his grasp. He appeared to make the claim and then just as suddenly drop the ball to the floor under no pressure.
The loose ball was turned in and Arsenal had conceded their first goal in four league matches. It was not the auspicious start of a supposed star in the making at his position.
Granted, that particular blunder didn't cost Arsenal points. However, Szczesny's feeble and clumsy effort to keep out a shot against Blackburn Rovers, cost Arsenal their place in the FA Cup.
In what was his first real action, Szczesny failed to deal with a shot that came from the corner of his box. He tamely parried the effort, not to his side, or behind the goal, but straight in front of him.
It was a gift for Colin Kazim-Richards, who slotted in the rebound and knocked Arsenal, with considerable help from Szczesny, out of the cup.
Against Liverpool in January, he misjudged crosses and nearly gifted another goal after trying to execute a Cruyff turn past Daniel Sturridge.
Szczesny has simply become a player who almost promises a mistake. It's become obvious that there are two main reasons for his slapdash displays.
3. His Mechanics Are All Wrong
Perhaps Szczesny's chief issue is that his mechanics are all wrong. He is a talented, goalkeeper, but he is also a sloppy one.
Szczesny simply doesn't consistently observe good, basic technique. He comes for crosses and misses, because he has either misjudged the flight of the ball or mistimed his advance.
He has even greater issues dealing with long shots. Consider the goal he conceded in Arsenal's recent 2-1 home win over Aston Villa.
Andreas Weimann's shot came from a long distance out but was really nothing special. The problem was Szczesny's terrible positioning.
He had taken too many steps toward his near post for reasons beyond all understanding. When Weimann hit his shot across to the other corner, which should have been obvious, Szczesny couldn't adjust.
He had to dive one way with the top half of his body, while his feet were planted in another direction. That proved to be as difficult in practice as it probably sounds from this description.
The shot almost went through Szczesny and into the net. It was another example of how his lazy technique put Arsenal under pressure.
2. Cavalier Attitude
Too often Szczesny exudes a cavalier attitude. Nothing seems to be his fault, and he rarely admonishes himself for a mistake.
Szczesny's healthy self-confidence is well-known. However, when it goes too far towards arrogance, it helps explain why he continues to make mistakes.
It shows why he doesn't improve at the basics. Calls for greater competition for Szczesny have become common.
Yet the real question is why does he even need competition so much? Those calls stem from the real concern, that Szczesny will rest on his laurels, if he isn't pushed to improve.
Would that be a concern with Petr Cech? It's highly unlikely that it would. A player as young as Szczesny shouldn't need to be pushed, or challenged to realise his potential.
Arsenal shouldn't have to buy a goalkeeper because the 22-year-old currently between the posts thinks he's already done enough.
1. The Embarrassment Stirred by His Father's Rants
Many sons occasionally have to apologise for their parents. Yet the embarrassment stirred by the rant from Szczesny's father, Macej, seems to encapsulate the youngster's tragi-comic season.
Szczesny senior, a former Poland international, publicly savaged Wenger's decision to drop his son. He lamented injuries and Arsenal's treatment of them, rather than any faults in concentration.
The Daily Telegraph quoted Szczesny, citing the original interview in Przeglad Sportowy:
Wojciech did not train the whole week and then a warm-up on Friday and played the match on Saturday. He was naturally more susceptible to minor injuries and his form was going down. Wenger was playing with the young man’s good health and Wojciech agreed foolishly.
In my opinion Mr Wenger messed up a lot in April and May. I don’t blame the young man who went along with his coach. His current lack of form is a result of those two months.
That prompted a quick and probably blushed u-turn from Szczesny junior. His statement was re-produced on Arsenal.com:
I would like to apologise for the comments made by my father which have been used by both Polish and English media.
I'd like to make it clear that those were the views and opinions of my father and not mine, and although I respect his views I cannot accept them as I find them disrespectful to the club I truly love.
I have been at Arsenal Football Club for seven years now and I have always shown my full respect to the Club, Arsène Wenger, all the coaching staff, my team-mates and the fans.
The rant from his father reveals how Szczesny's own failings are the last thing to merit blame for his struggles. That's certainly understandable coming from a father protecting his son.
However, it did put the younger Szczesny in a terrible position. It also created more negative press in a season already dominated by too much downbeat commentary.
To his credit, Szczesny did show good professionalism to react quickly. However, the whole sorry episode is just one more calamity in his season that has seen too many mishaps.
It's the kind of incident that's enough to prompt thinking that Szczesny is more trouble than he's worth.
Arsenal's Young Stopper Is Facing a Key Moment in His Career
There's no doubt Szczesny has arrived at a critical moment in his Arsenal career. His swaggering self-belief has been checked, and Wenger has made it clear he won't hesitate to look for an alternative.
Szczesny has to force his way back into the team and show fans why he looked so good to begin with. That means no more excuses about the defence in front of him or any niggling injury woes.
Szczesny has to match consistency to his potential. The talent is there, and supporters will likely point to his credible 72.15 save percentage, reported by talkSPORT
Certainly when he faces a one-on-one close in, it's still reasonable to believe Szczesny will make a solid save. However, that same talkSPORT article also references the 22 goals Szczesny has surrendered in 19 EPL starts.
Of course, stats rarely tell the whole story, no matter which side of it they seem to support. Arsenal fans who have watched Szczesny for themselves this season, can't mistake the issues he's experienced.
If he doesn't act soon to eradicate his errors, Szczesny won't just be Arsenal's most disappointing player this season. He'll join the likes of Almunia as another goalkeeper who botched his chance to be the Gunners' No.1.