Should We Have Sold Szczesny? by Dan Smith
Since Jens Lehmen left, Arsene Wenger had a blind spot over keepers, constantly buying individuals who would mentally freeze in key moments of matches and seasons. So when we bought Cech in 2015 many thought we had made the signing to end our Premiership drought (we didn’t realise he’d be our only purchase!). Jon Terry admitted this was a man who could save you 15 points a season, while Jose was insistent he didn’t want to help make a rival stronger, or help out his best mate Mr Wenger.
All of this meant that Wojciech Szczesny, after 181 games, left with little fanfare. His final appearance was in the FA Cup Final but being being the ‘cup keeper’ meant you were not first choice in the League. He had been for a few years ’til he was dropped for Ospina. The Colombian had a great World Cup in Brazil but was he any better then what we already had?
The Pole’s Arsenal career was essentially ended by being caught smoking in Southampton’s showers , after conceding FOUR GOALS!!!! It showed a lack of leaders in our dressing room for a young player to think this was how you conduct yourself. It’s not something his next two destinations would tolerate . Loaned out to Roma proved perfect for his development. Italy prides itself on training hard. They are professional and will not tolerate the outlandish personality Szczesny could be. Having finished runners up, Roma wanted to make his stay permanent but the other two parties were unsure. His parent club, us of course, were hesitant because Cech, while good, showed moments why he was not wanted by Chelsea.
Having impressed, why was Szczesny not pressuring to stay in Serie A? In reality he wanted to continue his dream which started when he moved to London at just 16. The compromise was another year added to the loan. So in that 24 month spell was Cech better then a man that management had chosen to send to the Italian Capital? The answer was an approach From Juventus who were dominating the sport domestically. To be on the Old Ladies radar means you done something right. A third year on loan abroad was an option. If that happened I believe he would be number 1 at the Emirates right now as he’s much better then what we have right now.
Never lacking self confidence, he could have backed himself to be a gunner again. In the turning point of his career though he showed maturity that he at times lacked, realising that learning off Buffon was too good an opportunity to turn down. The veteran was putting no time frame on when he was retiring but the a Italian Champions wanted their legend to prepare his under study. Allegri would rotate both men, letting the world know he had Buffon’s sucessor, it was just a case of when the World Cup winner had enough of Turin.
Filling in for a man with God-like status was the pressure the Pole needed. Surrounded by winners, he got serious, focused and cut out mistakes from his game. The Italian version of Szczesny was now the finished article. At this point it looked a massive mistake for our board to sell for just 10 million, another case of Gazidis not getting the correct value on our assets.
With age catching up to Cech we could have done with an option of bringing back a talent we produced. Instead we recruited Leno, who has the ball skills that Emery likes to build his attacks from. That wouldn’t be labelled a Szczesny strength but he could have been coached to learn the role. In terms of keeping the ball out of the net though, in the last 4 years I argue he’s better then what we got. He’s not going to rush back from winning Scudettos, to play in the Europa League but I get the impression from his interview with the English press, he’s left the door open for a return to the capital.
Having moved to the UK as a teenager he sees himself as a gooner, refers to himself as an Arsenal fan and views leaving as thinking with his head not his hart (something most foreigners wouldn’t say about joining one of the biggest clubs in the world).
Anyone who ever watched him on our in-house Youtube videos will know he was in many ways an adopted Englishmen, aware of our traditions and history as much as a Jack Wilshere. If Arsenal wanted him back, Juve would ask for more then they gave us, while the plan is for Leno to be around for along time.
Whisper it quietly though, maybe our future was right under our nose?