A new start for Szczesny suits everyone

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Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny looks set to spend another season in Italy after terms were reportedly agreed between Arsenal and Roma. Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio has claimed that the Polish international will undergo his medical this Thursday ahead of another one-year loan deal with the Serie A outfit, although the move could become permanent next summer as a purchase option of around €18m is likely to be inserted into the contract.

The shot-stopper joined Roma last season and enjoyed an impressive debut season for the club, with the 26-year-old making 42 appearances in all competitions in total as he remained between the sticks for the majority of the season. Arsenal’s signing of Petr Cech last season meant Szczesny’s first-team chances became even slimmer in north London after David Ospina had claimed the number one spot at the end of the 2014/15 season and his loan move was secured to ensure that he got more game time.

Cech had a sublime first season for the Gunners and Colombian international Ospina also impressed when called upon with his penchant for acrobatic saves winning over the hearts of many Arsenal fans, most notably during the 2-2 away draw with Tottenham. This meant that if Szczesny had stayed at Arsenal for the forthcoming 2016/17 season he would likely have seen himself drop to third in the pecking order, which for someone of Szczesny’s ability was never going to be good enough.

A temporary move away from the Emirates Stadium last season looked to be the best for all parties involved, and it was thought that Szczesny could come back to the club this summer and challenge Cech for the number one spot with another year of experience under his belt. However, Cech’s form and the revival of Ospina has made the chances of that happening look even slimmer, and he might well have not found himself even selected to warm the bench for the majority of the season.

There have been doubts about Ospina’s long term future with the club but he has since come out to say that he respects the contract he has with Arsenal and that he’s happy to stay as part of the ream, which has dispelled many rumours that he himself was on the verge of an exit. Ospina staying means the Pole has little choice but to seek pastures new.

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In 2014/15, Szczesny didn’t have the best of times at Arsenal and his apparent immature attitude saw Wenger see it fit to ship him out, and it’s hard to argue that a move away from the club who bought him from Legia Warsaw in 2006 isn’t the best thing for him now. It’s hard to cut ties with a club in which you have spent so long at but if he is to progress his career a new start certainly seems the smartest option.

It certainly seemed last season that Szczesny was somewhat irked by the signing of Petr Cech, and during his time in Rome he decided to take something of a dig at the club he was still contracted to by saying that he learned more in four months playing under manager Luciano Spalletti than he did in a decade in north London. Such a comment draws into question the mentality he possesses as he criticized the club who backed him and offered him a number of chances to prove his worth, and I’m sure that his quotes will not have gone down well with the coaching staff at London Colney.

The Polish ‘keeper has made 181 appearances for the Gunners since making his professional debut in 2009 and played a pivotal role in the club’s FA Cup win in 2015. He impressed frequently during the 2013/14 season in particular and ended up sharing the Golden Glove award with then-Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech for the most number of clean sheets won in a season. Arsene Wenger had long backed his young goalkeeper despite frequent calls for a more established replacement, but the manager eventually relented last summer when the opportunity to sign Cech for a relatively small fee presented itself.

The poor form shown in the middle of the 2014/15 season which was coupled with an equally poor attitude saw Szczesny dropped in favour of Ospina, and it is likely that Wenger’s decision to make the change was heavily influenced by the fact that Szczesny was caught smoking in the showers following the club’s defeat away to Southampton. He was eventually fined £20,000 for the incident and it was at this point that many fans, as well the manager, felt that they had had enough of the Pole’s frustrating antics.

He was also accused of smoking once more last season following Roma’s 6-1 thumping at the hands of Barcelona, which again drew ire from his new manager and fans, and as a result he was dropped once more as experienced deputy Morgan de Sanctis came in to replace him. Whilst he managed to retain his place in the side before long it remains to be seen if this is the last case of ill-discipline he shows in his career.

For all of his faults, however, Szczesny did connect well with the Arsenal fans on many occasions with his dislike of arc rivals Spurs and genuine love for Arsenal shining through often. It’s a shame that for many his goalkeeping errors and immature behaviour have permanently tarnished his reputation.

At 26 years of age, he still has plenty of time to reach his peak as a goalkeeper, and this second loan spell at Roma and potential permanent transfer to them looks the best move for his career prospects. He’s made many mistakes but many players do in the early spell of their career, and I genuinely wish him all the best moving forward and would love to see him lift a trophy or two at his new club.

All the best, Wojciech.

Chris Baker

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