Our young Polish goalkeeping prospect Wojciech Szczesny has been making a lot of noise of late agitating for more first team chances. There`s nothing wrong with that, we`d want any of our players to harbour enough ambition and self belief to want to have the chance to show their quality. But the highly rated 20 year old appears to be pursuing a path well worn by other impatient youngsters in seemingly offering public ultimatums to play or else. In this case the else is a contract that expires at the end of this season.
If a player truly believes that he is better than any of the incumbents at a club as big as Arsenal then why doesn`t he trust his own belief that his greater talent will prevail sooner rather than later? Instead a month ago, apparently irked at not even having the backup spot to Fabianski in the CC game at WHL, he expressed his ire with the bizarre proposition that Arsenal are unwilling to give youth a chance.
“If you are fighting for trophies, you should pick your best players, not your oldest” Szczesny said at the time. “I am not interested in being the number-three keeper, only the number one. But no-one at Arsenal is brave enough to let me play.”
When quizzed on the young keepers outburst at a press conference shortly after, Wenger challenged the young Pole to show the maturity to deal with the challenge that is inevitable at a big club. “He is right, he deserves a chance but the keeper in front of him, Mannone, deserves a chance as well.” Le Boss said “It’s part of their job as a football player to live with competition and decisions. I believe the best thing for him is just to focus, work hard and trust us. No club in the world has started more players at the top, top level than we have. Nobody, so he is in the right club. But impatience is a characteristic of youth.”
That he has talent is clear but there are few truly top clubs that will trust young keepers to learn on the job. Of the top clubs in the PL only ManU will have need for a new number one for the foreseeable future but they don`t have a great reputation for trusting young keepers. He could go abroad of course but would he be offered the chance of playing in the CL at such a young age with a club with any sort of pedigree in the competition?
Of all the positions in the team goalkeeper is the most exposed and the hardest in which to learn on the job. Fabianski has been roasted for poor mistakes in inconsequential games last season in just such circumstances. Inevitably Szczesny runs the same risks no matter how talented he is. His appearance against Newcastle in the CC was a positive one but had not Koscienly saved his blushes on one occasion and Eboue on another his promise might not have emerged quite as buffed from the experience.
“What they forget when they are 20 is that they can play until they are 40, whereas a normal player can only go to 32 or 34 if it all goes well, so what they lose at the start they gain at the end of their career.” Wenger explained in urging patience for his young prospect.
It is just such patience that has been applied to Fabianski who, since taking his opportunity in the team this season, has shown that he does have the makings of being a very good keeper. Fabianski is 25 and has had to wait almost 4 years for the prospect of a sustained run in the side but can`t yet be certain he is Number One. This season will answer that question. For Szczesny to stay he needs to believe that he is better than Fabianski. If he has that belief then signing a new contract shouldn`t harbour any fears for him. His failure to do so insisting that he`ll only extend his contract if he has played enough games this season betrays the fears that he might not believe he is as good as he suggests.
Reported yesterday as having declined the new offer put to him Szczesny said “There was some offers, but I am not interested right now. It`s not that I don`t want to extend the contract, I just don`t want to hold talks at this point. I have enough money to live and I can`t complain about that, but I will only be happy if I play. Everything depends on how many games I play. I admit that I want to play at Arsenal as long as they want me. If I can earn my place in goal I won`t even consider any other offers.”
Wenger is keen to keep him saying back in September “When you educated a player like we do with Szczesny, who arrives at the age of 16, it is a long-term investment which costs a lot of money, so you want to keep the players. We will talk to him about a new deal. We rate him and we want to keep him.”
So therein lays a dilemma for Wenger. On the one hand we can`t be absolutely certain that Fabianski will sustain the reassuring form he has shown so far but are obliged as well as encouraged to allow him to endeavour to do so. If he doesn`t succeed then we either have to turn to the known quantity of Almunia, who despite everything remains a competent top flight keeper or, with Mannone out on loan, bow to the demands of Szczesny, with all the risks that involves both for him and for the team, in order to keep him beyond this season.
There are few inconsequential games in an Arsenal fixture schedule. Beat Shakthar this week and maybe the remaining 2 CL group games could fall into that category. The Carling Cup clearly still does despite our lust for any form of silverware but beyond that and any opportunity the FA cup offers the scope to give Szczesny what he apparently wants is very limited. In the end the belief that Szczesny is good enough to make it here has to come from himself. If he doesn`t have that belief then he probably isn`t the keeper he says he is.
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