I said that Szczesny would be done at Arsenal the week I heard that he had an altercation with Wenger. That was the then infamous “smoking in the boys room” fiasco where he reportedly lit up a smoke inside the showers. Whether this small fact is true or not is irrelevant. The important fact that no one denies is a bust-up between Szczesny and Wenger.
The other important fact is that Szczesny was shipped out that summer and hasn’t returned. At that time I said he was done as an Arsenal player and despite the brief moments where I lose my mind and fantasize about him making a triumphant return I fear that it will never happen.
Wenger is all about loyalty and importantly loyalty in both directions. Once you cross Wenger he crosses you… off his list of people he wants to deal with on a daily basis.
The list of people crossed off the list is long. This is a big reason why Cesc Fabregas didn’t return to Arsenal. Vieira wanted to return to Arsenal and went, instead, to Man City. Tony Adams has recently crossed the manager and has said that Wenger no longer returns his texts (they reportedly texted each other often).
I would add another observation to this: once a player goes out on loan it’s rare that they return to the Arsenal fold as a first team starter. Some of the very young players did it, Wilshere went on loan to Bolton, but once an experienced player is loaned out, he’s done as an Arsenal first team player. It seems like the loan moves are more done because Arsenal can’t sell the guy rather than because Arsenal want to hold onto them.
Coquelin was loaned out multiple times and returned to start in Arsenal’s midfield for a year but that was a unique situation: Wenger was absolutely desperate for a midfielder and so threw Coquelin on and the Frenchman played his heart out, shielding Arsenal’s crazy attacking lineup. But can you think of another player in the last 10 years who went on loan and then returned to be a regular first team starter?
This is the reason why I don’t think Szczesny is going to be at Arsenal next season. I also don’t think Wilshere will be at Arsenal next season. That’s despite the fact that Arsenal could use a player of Wilshere’s skillset: he could easily slip into the Cazorla role. But the problem isn’t his natural skills, it’s his development and his temperament.
But after reading Amy Lawrence’s excellent piece on Szczesny I find myself unsure that Arsenal won’t take Szczesny back. Or more like thinking it would be foolish not to take him back.
Lawrence’s piece starts out with the reveal that Mertesacker invited Szczesny to the FA Cup final and I wonder if Mertesacker was trying to broker a peace between Szczesny and Wenger. Szczesny couldn’t make it to the game because he had to play for Roma, in Totti’s last game, but it’s clear from the interview that Szczesny is still a huge Arsenal supporter.
It hurts being an Arsenal fan watching as it has been a painful year. Being 1500 miles away helps! You can’t stop supporting the team, though. You follow them and that’s it. This year in the league has been disappointing, in the Champions League has been disappointing, so as an Arsenal fan you look for that FA Cup final to save the season.
It’s also clear that Szczesny has grown as a man and as a footballer. He got married and has stopped trolling Instagram for dates. Professionally he’s been working with Roma teammate and close friend Bogdan Lobont on his concentration and tactics and shows signs that he could be a great talent:
The biggest thing I have taken away from these two years at Roma is the fact I grew as a goalkeeper. It’s just raising your levels, your standards. I absorbed a bigger knowledge of football, the tactical side of the game. You don’t see me with that rush of blood that I used to have as a younger keeper. It’s not that I don’t feel that rush of blood but tactically you are more aware of when to be involved, when to let the defenders recover.
The difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is that when the great athlete fails he admits he was wrong and works to fix the problem. Great athletes also look for continuous improvement, another thing Szczesny said in his interview,
I want to try to keep going up, with my quality and with my decisions that I make. I am 27, the best I have ever been, I still have room to improve and I want to make sure that room doesn’t stay empty. I want to go into that room. (This summer) feels like a big moment.
Arsenal have this young player under contract for another year. This is a player who has admitted his mistakes and his flaws and who actively worked to improve himself on and off the pitch. He’s also a huge Arsenal supporter and happens to be a great goalkeeper. Arsenal also need a first choice keeper. Man City just paid £35m for Ederson and while you may not like to hear this, £35m is the going rate for top quality keepers to come to the Premier League.
From a financial, player, personnel, and team perspective, this is a no-brainer: Wenger needs to set aside his ego and meet Szczesny half way. But why do I think he can’t or won’t?