In the midst
of our fantastic run it’s easy to undervalue the performance of particular
players and ogle at the performances of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey
or Mathieu Flamini, yet there’s one player who I think has flown under the
radar whilst showing a massive improvement in his performances.
I’d go as far
as saying in the last seven long months (seven months yesterday to be exact)
he’s proved to be our most improved player.
guessed who it is yet? It is of course Wojciech Szczesny. Arsene Wenger stole
my thunder today be lavishing praise on the 23-year-old keeper but it’s fully
Szczesny had many a howler last season and he fully warranted getting the axe
but he is the real success story of Wenger’s tough stance following defeat in
the NLD back in March. The fact is the real first team casualties of that day
were Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal. The latter has had more opportunities
than the former but clearly there is a real trust issue with Wenger, who
probably has as many nightmares as me about the Spaniard stepping up and
to Szczesny and Wenger’s comments today. He believes the competition for the
Number one shirt has led to an improvement. I’d disagree somewhat. There has
never been ‘competition’ just players adequate enough to play a few games
without too much drama and Lukasz Fabianski played that role perfectly last
season. The fact is Szczesny reacted as ever good player should. He took his
medicine and sat on the bench and witnessed his teammates winning without him
contributing to their success. That is hard to take, especially having been a
fixture in the line up week in, week out.
performances began to improve around the Queens Park Rangers game last season
and it’s become evident that he has worked on his flaws (of which there are a
few) and for that Gerry Peyton must take credit. I have criticised him in the
past, as have many of the mainstream media, particular those on Sunday Supplement.
The criticism is levelled at him due the lack of progression and improvement
that we’ve seen in between the sticks for the last few years but now the
improvement is there for all to see and Wenger summarised it perfectly.
“He comes off the line much more to claim the ball. His movement to take
the ball at the peak is much better and he has shown that in the last two games
against Swansea and Napoli when it was needed to come off the line and take a
When I say perfectly I mean when he focuses on the aspects he discussed because
I think there is one area Wenger didn’t address and that is the significant
improvement in his handling. Especially with shots low down/dip at the last
second. There were many examples of this in our game at Fulham earlier this
season. Everything sticks – he’s like a human catch mitt at the moment, it’s
just refreshing to see.
23-years-old in goalkeeping terms? Look at Joe Hart. Apparently he’s young, yet
he’s three years older than Szczesny and whilst criticism is increasing on
England’s number one, it’s hardly anywhere near the level we have faced and
been mocked for on countless occasions. Looking at the goals Manchester City
conceded on Wednesday he hasn’t learned a thing in recent seasons.
are never a good sign for a keeper, nor is frequently getting beaten at your
near post or venturing into No man’s land.
The latter should be Szczesny’s next
focus, as he does like a wander but we need to remember that the Polish keeper
could be our keeper for the next 10 seasons and when you think of it like that,
you begin to appreciate what sort of keeper we have and how for the next six to
seven years he will continue to improve and as far as I see it, he can be
anything he wants to be.