By Ryan Fleming
For over a year now, we have heard how the stern-faced Arsene Wenger has stood by his keepers, Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski, despite their constant blunders. There have been rumors of the goalkeepers demise, the clubs attempted signature of other keepers such as Shay Given of Manchester City and Mark Schwarzer of Fulham.
Like many of the seemingly meaningless, buffoonery that are the rumors of the soccer world, they meant absolutely nothing. Almunia and Fabianski’s homes are still in North London despite the inconsistency in their performances.
Wojciech Szczesny, given his first league start after playing 20 games on loan to Brentford last season, played well in Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United on Monday. Despite the loss, the Polish keeper should be given the reigns at the position until he proves incontestably that he is unable to handle the position for such a storied team.
The 20-year-old Pole has the skills needed for the starting position in his blood. His father, Maciej, was Poland’s international keeper too, but spent his playing days in his home country. Standing six-feet three inches tall, Wojciech is the future of the club at his position. The Gunners started scouting him when he was only 16, seeing the future years ago.
What’s impressive is Wenger’s decision to start the Pole over Fabianski or Almunia, given the form of Arsenal’s back line in recent weeks. The form of Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny has been anything but certain. And throwing the youngster into the fray given only a mere three starts in league cup matches, again points to Wenger’s past and present faith in Szczesny, certainly placing the future of the club into the present.
If Wenger turns his back now in the youngster, he’s basically proving himself a hypocrite and continuing the to cast a cloud of doubt over the number one spot in goal, pinning down the possibility of rising confidence over the other two Arsenal keepers. If Szczesny continues to play well for the Gunners then one of the two keepers will surely leave during the January transfer window, even both. Wenger could search out a veteran to take the backseat while Arsenal rides the Pole. Almunia could make the transition easier if the rumors of his desire to head back to Spain are true.
It would be a bit much to say that the future of the club is in Wenger’s hands over this trying situation, but the decision should be much easier than he is making it. For a team as gifted as Arsenal, Alumnia and Fabianski don’t make the top 10 best keepers in the EPL, with Szczesny protecting the net, that could change quickly.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.