Tuesday 30 June 2015

Thoughts on Cech signing and Szczesny's future

If you pay £11m for a 33-year-old you are either very confident in his quality or have too much money to spend.

We should be very confident in Petr Cech.

Not only does he bring an impressive medal collection to the club, he adds another cool head at the back and can deliver the consistently good performances you need to challenge for the title.

Most people have drawn comparisons with Pat Jennings since he moved from a supposed rival who wrongly assumed he was past his prime.

But Jennings was 32 and 'only' won an FA Cup with Arsenal, something that would be considered a poor return for Cech.

A quick flick through the record books shows his age should not be a concern as there are some brilliant examples of great keepers being successful in the twilight years of the career.

David Seaman won two leagues and three FA Cups with Arsenal after turning 33. 

Jens Lehmann picked up a league and a cup after joining us at that age, while Gianluigi Buffon has won four leagues and a cup for Juventus.

But the best example has to be Edwin van der Sar at Man U. He was 35 when he moved to Old Trafford from Fulham and collected four league, two league cup, one Champions League and one World Club Cup title before retiring at 41.

Is it feasible that we could get nine years out of Cech? One person who will be hoping not is Wojciech Szczesny. 

He is now 25 and has failed to pin down the number one position that appeared to be his for the taking.

The hope is that enough of Cech’s good habits will rub off on Szczesny and he will mature into the first choice in a couple of seasons.

Sadly I have my doubts the story will follow that path given some of the traits he has shown on the pitch and surely he would much prefer to be learning on the job through a loan, but he can shape his own destiny.

Well, he can to an extent because Wenger has always taken quite an unusual approach to handling goalkeepers.

After inheriting Seaman, he dabbled in a bit of Richard Wright, Stuart Taylor, and Rami Shabaan before landing Lehmann. Throw in Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski and you have quite a hotpotch of keepers.

For about half of his time as manager, Wenger has never really fully committed to a keeper - there has been a sense that any of the two or three keepers in the squad could be given a run in the side. 

There might be a school of thought that the 10 outfield players are far, far more important in deciding the success or failure of a team compared to the one in goal but as far as I’m concerned all of the great teams have a clear number one in place.

Wenger’s judgement on which keepers to, er, keep and which to discard has also been questionable.

I never really saw what Wright and Taylor did to warrant being discarded without getting the chance to fully prove themselves, though admittedly neither of them have gone on to do much beyond warm the benches of various Premier League clubs (mainly Man City where didn’t Wright win a league title without playing a game?). 

On the other hand, I saw plenty of what Fabianski and, in particular, Almunia did wrong. Of course we aren’t privy to their training ground work and approach to life like Wenger is, but the loyalty shown to Fabianski and Almunia compared to those who previously tried their hand at the position was baffling. 

And there were alternatives available – I got very excited a few years back at the prospect of Mark Schwarzer joining us, as he was too I seem to remember, and he would have been a clear upgrade even if he might not have been world class.

But back to Cech and Szczesny. And David Ospina, who I suspect will become a footnote in Arsenal history pretty quickly, despite not doing a huge amount wrong apart from being just mediocre.

Does the fact that Wenger has brought Cech in show us that he has sharpened his ability to assess goalkeepers? 

Maybe, but I think it is more likely to show that he doesn't believe in Szczesny. 

Wenger's usual MO when presented with goalkeepers of a similar ilk would suggest the Pole would have regained his place from Ospina after a few games of this season, then lost it again, and then regained it, then lost it… and so on. 

If Cech hadn't arrived on the scene, Szczesny could realistically have battled past Ospina over time. 

But given the amount spent on Cech and the fact he is so clearly the more talented keeper, the chances of Szczesny seriously challenging for a place in the team are remote, and Wenger must know it.

Cech is our number one and could be for a good few years. Everyone associated with Arsenal should be thankful we have him. Apart from Szczesny. Without wanting to sound cruel, we have to hope that the new recruit performs so well that the Pole is forced to look elsewhere to gain the playing time he needs to fulfil his potential. 

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