Szczesny stay or Szczesny go?

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?



  1. As far as I appreciate Szczesny, I don’t think he would be as efficient as we want him to be. When you ask Roma fans about him (the same who are not mad to see him go and prefer to bet on their young keeper), they would told you a very well-known story. A story of a keeper who can offer brillant moments and important saves during three games, then, for no apparent reason, who can lost his mind and focus the ten next.
    I think Szczesny is what Juve or Roma see in him : a good second choice, who can offer moment of brillance. But not a starter. This is what he was for Arsenal, and what he would be. Not an ambitious choice to compete for the title. I would rather bet on Martinez, another brillant youngster and probably a next very good keeper for the futur

  2. Petr Cech is 35. I like Cech, I think he’s still a top 10 keeper in the world. He is a better keeper than Szczesny, but for how long?

    I personally would like to keep Szczesny because I think we’re in need of a team rebuilding, not a remodeling. Szczesny would give us our top quality goalie for 10+ years.

    In a perfect world you could have both Cech and Szczesny competing for the job, giving us one of the very best 1-2 duos in goal of any club. But that’s not how the vast majority of clubs work; they have one supremo goalkeeper who plays 80-90% of the games ex) Lloris, DeGea, Neuer.

    So, I don’t think Wenger has a choice but to sell Szczesny, regardless of his personal relationship with the player. Cech can be keeper for us for another 5 years barring major injury. He can play 80-90% of those games. By all accounts he’s an excellent pro who will not be prone to an extended slide in form. Emi Martinez is an unknown but seems content with the back-up role. Szczesny is on his last year, will he re-up knowing he gets only half the games with Cech? Unlikely.

    That said, Juve bidding 4.5million is b***sh*t.

    That said

    1. Cech is past his prime. If we start with Cech next season it’s only going to get worse. Chelsea were right to sell him to us.

      1. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of your two opinions:

        Cech is still quality, but I see no reason–other than maybe his leadership and professionalism–that he should be our keeper for another 5 years. For one thing, over that 5 year period it’s highly likely that Szczesny will be better than Cech over that 5 year period, whether or not Cech’s powers significantly decline (they will decline some, almost inevitably).

        But I think Cech has one more good year in him, his experience and temperament is clearly a bonus in the dressing room, and it would be neither smart nor necessary to bench/sell him now. I think the best option is to tell Szczesny to come back and compete in preseason for the number 1 shirt. Cech is not the default number 1, it’s may the best man win. Then, the number 2 guy gets Ospina’s old games, i.e. autumn Europe games (playing the backup in the spring is a bit much) and the FA Cup. That’s no too shabby. Also tell him that, provided he acquits himself well this season (whether as number 1 or 2), that the starting spot is his from 2018 onwards, when Cech’s contract will be up.

        This seems the best of both worlds. Since he obviously loves us as a club, it’s unlikely he’ll go full Cesc/RVP/Nasri and throw his toys out of the pram if we tell him he’s not being sold this summer (or we could tell Juve we’re willing to sell him–but only for 35-40m pounds). If he’s “had his head turned” by Juve (which would be reasonable), he’s one of the few players whose head Arsenal might actually be able to turn back, so to speak.

        1. I think it’s a moot discussion. Szczesny won’t resign and he’s in the last year of his deal, it’s the same problem we have with what… 6 or 7 other players? We’re forced to cash in. Unfortunately other teams know this and are low-balling bids. Wait until we hear about the derisory bids for Wilshere.

          It’s a mess. And again Wenger is at the heart of it. We’re mid-June, training camp opens in three weeks and we’ve got one signing, no clear outs as of yet and no contract extensions.

          This mess is going deep into August.

          1. I hear you. This is one thing we cannot disagree upon as a group of fans.

            Last year, we got beat 3-4 on the opening day by a team clearly with more minutes, more organization and more fitness compared to us.

            Its like throwing in a bunch of players and hoping for the best. That will just not work in this modern day and age.

            Wenger needs to step up his game and prove he is worth the new contract. Early ins and outs, clear communications and yes, get the cheque book out if an amazing player becomes available at the end of the window (those exceptions can be considered).

        2. Buffon is playing one more season and then retiring (though Marcotti thinks he’ll play even longer), so Szczesny has a problem either way. He comes back to us, he’s probably playing second fiddle to Cech. He goes to Juve, he’s probably playing second fiddle to Buffon. I really, really don’t think Juve will bench Buffon in favor of Szczesny unless the Italian goes into free fall in a big way part way through their season.

          There’s a real dilemma for both parties, him and Arsenal. Personally, I think Arsenal should be ‘ruthless’ with Cech and tell him we’re starting the season with Szczesny and will continue with the Pole so long as form dictates. Cech is a professional, and while I think he’d be disappointed, he might see his chance in the Europa League and the other cup competitions, and maybe, just maybe he’d be ok with transitioning this way into a mentor’s role (wishful thinking, perhaps).

          In any case, I think Szczesny should be our starting keeper next season.

          Will Wenger do this? No, I don’t. I think if Cech said ‘it’s me or him’, Wenger would stick with Cech. And it’s not the worst thing ever, of course. Cech is still an excellent keeper.

          1. Yes, great point! All these Arsenal fans saying the main problem is with him being willing to be behind Cech, but at Juve he’ll be behind Buffon. There’s more to all of this than meets the eye, I suspect.

          1. I thought you said Cech showed unbelievable form when we started conceding a lot of shots in prime after the switch to back 3? Surely, that is not awful form?

            Even going by the word, over last year the team lost mostly due to a loss of balance in mid-field.

      2. Cech is high quality, even if past his prime. In his prime he was probably the best keeper in the world. Now he’s slipped… but still top 10. He made a lot of big saves for us this season, he still has the ability to save us points.

      3. Don’t underestimate the value of proper coaching. Cech is on the record to state that his former mentor Christophe Lollichon was his best coach ever, and one of the reasons for his staying at the top level of proffesional goal keeping.

        Gerry Payton on the othe hand…..

  3. dammit! it’s happened again. i swear tim, it’s almost like you wait until i’m typing and then post a new thread.


  4. wenger would be a fool to sell szczesny. he’s been playing very well and, like you said, has grown up. sure, he’s made mistakes but that’s the nature of young players, especially if they haven’t already gone through some crap in their careers.

    szczesny should come back. cech isn’t getting younger and ospina is about to join van persie in turkey. we’ll see if wenger puts his ego aside.

  5. For me the choice between Cech and Szczesny is a no-brainer. My impression of Cech is that he is well past his peak, and while he can still make great saves and read the game well, he is now making some pretty basic errors too on a depressingly regular basis. I see his best role (if he would take it) as mentor to either Szczesny or Ospina (hope he stays but he probably won’t), and quality back-up if needed. Szczesny has always had the talent and if his temperament has improved as Tim suggests, he would surely be our best option for the next 5-7 years. And I have always liked Ospina, a first-choice international who has had to sit on the bench and make do the occasional second-tier game but still comes in when needed and can make unbelievable stops. He reminds me of Peter Bonetti and I reckon if he had a good run in the first team, his judgement and sharpness would come up to speed. Just a gut feeling, for sure. But he would have a good mentor, right?

    1. Ospina is average, though a likable bloke who makes some good saves. We absolutely should sell him this summer.

    2. The only reason to keep Ospina would be to lure his brother-in-law into signing.

        1. actually this could explain why we suddenly jacked up the price (read: pulled out of the deal) to send Ospina to Turkey 😉

          1. why am I suddenly using lots of smiley faces and buying into juvenile transfer fantasies about James Rodriguez coming to Arsenal? Oh, the summer transfer window, brings out the 16 year old in me every time!

  6. One last thought. I tend to agree with Tim’s analysis, that the resistance to Sir Chesney returning might be as much about Wenger as it is about him.

    But here’s another take: James from gunnerblog has it on good authority, apparently, that we’re planning for Emi Martinez to be our number 2 this coming season. Maybe this Szczesny to Juve thing is less about him, or Wenger, or even Cech, and more about Martinez. Maybe it’s being optimistic, but what if the coaching staff at Arsenal see in Martinez a genuinely top class (De Gea/Neuer level is unlikely, but maybe just below) keeper who’s got the maturity to step directly into Cech’s shoes and be our number one for years to come? So they don’t want to have him rotting as the number 3 for another whole season, nor do they want to risk a loan deal that could go sour for any number of reasons.

    Maybe they look at Szczesny and Martinez and think the latter is far more likely to be the better keeper over the next decade, so keeping the Pole would only slow his development. I have no idea if this is true–none of us have seen him play enough to really know his potential–though I do think the club rates Emi highly.

    1. Sure, perhaps Martinez could be a Neuer.

      If so, there is no chance that a loan deal would turn sour and if he’s that good he should be starting already.

      Also, re-signing Szczesny is still a no-brainer. Because he’s still going to be a super top quality keeper and still going to be worth £25m to sell on.

      Also, I can’t listen to Gunnerblog. I can’t make it past the nasal “hey guys” that start all his videos. Really wish there were transcripts of his vlogs.

      1. 1. I specifically said he probably won’t be a Neuer, but only comparable in the sense of being ready to play regularly at a very young age. And though I rate Szczesny, the Arsenal coaches don’t have to think Emi’s the next Neuer to think he’ll probably be better than Szczesny soon. I think it’s not hard to imagine how even the best thought-out loan moves can turn sour, especially for a goalkeeper: if he goes somewhere and ends up being (perhaps surprisingly) the backup to someone else, he could very easily spend a year playing almost no football.

        2. I agree that re-signing Woj makes sense, but if he’s dragging his feet, or outright refusing to sign a new contract, then it makes sense to cash in rather than hold onto him in hopes he’ll sign later, or just for the purposes of being able to play him this season–IF Arsenal thinks Martinez is ready now. Also, if they’d prefer to go with Cech and Martinez ahead of Szczesny, then signing him to a new deal just for the purposes of selling him next summer for a bigger fee, while making him third choice this season, is not really doing right by the player, and I think Arsene and Arsenal wouldn’t go about their business that way (they’d basically have to lie to his face to convince him to sign, i.e. by telling him he was going to be challenging for the number 1 spot). I’m not saying this makes sense of what’s happening, I’m just saying that IF Arsenal rate Martinez crazy high, that might explain why they see no room for Szczesny, in which case they can’t really talk him into re-signing even if he’d be open to it in theory. (Look: I wish we were more ruthless with players, particularly not selling them just because they refuse to sign a new contract or demand to be sold. But convincing Szczesny to stay and re-sign under false pretenses would be downright unethical.)

        3. Wow, Tim, feeling especially cranky these days or something? Complaining about a guy’s voice seems particularly and unnecessarily harsh.

      2. Tim, I mean no disrespect but, have you seen Szczesny play off late over the last seasons? I have not and I only remember him to be the error prone player we let go.

        He was rash, erratic and no where near the top quality keeper he is being touted in these comments. I am sure he has matured in Roma and Amy Lawrence quotes some admirable views from a young keeper. But, we are a top club and we need to be the absolute best in every position.

        Szczesny has the physique to be a top quality keeper but, I am not sure how to justify that he will be a top keeper aside from Juve’s interest.

  7. I mean, if Juve think he’s worthy to take over for Buffon, how stupid would we have to be to let him go?

  8. I agree. When Arsene is done with a player, he is done with that player.

    Sczesney is done at Arsene’s Arsenal.

    Arsene doesn’t care about fans’ opinion. At the end of the day it will be HE who deals with HIS players day in day out. Not fans.

    I hope I am wrong and Sczesney comes back at Arsenal and wins aomething. But not gonna happen.

  9. Cech is fallible, and not the great keeper he once was at Chelsea. Szczesny can absolutely displace him. It looks as if Ospina will go, so there’s room to take the Pole back. However if I was in his position and Juve wanted me to succeed the great Buffon, I’d hitchhike to Turin.

  10. I’m also slightly bemused at Arsenal fans’ indignation at Juve lowballing us for Szczesny. It’s how the market works for soon-to-be-out-of-contract players, and there’s not a thing that the selling club can do.

    I believe that I’m right in saying that we have got some terrific players on the cheap over the years? Jeez, where do I start? Fabregas for half a mil?

    As Tim correctly points out, we’re also not going to be able to recover Wilshere’s true market value if we sell him. If you value a player long term, you lock him down early.

    Our contracts resolution situation is challenging, to put it mildly. A lot of hard, hard work needs to get done over the next 4 weeks.

  11. What about Emi Martínez? He’s 24 now and has done well in the little I’ve seen of him. How does he figure in all this? Does he have a chance to push for more starts or is he on his way out the door?

  12. As I mention above, Gunnerblog says he has it on good authority that Martinez is earmarked to be our number 2 this year.

  13. I am curious to know if Szczesny did so well in Roma because of the style of Football in Italy or the way Roma were setup to play or just that he has improved a lot. I am always a bit nervous reading about the great exploits of players in other leagues. Given the way referees in England let go of fouls on keepers besides being quick to show red cards for slight touches, I will be very interested in seeing Szcz fares if he is back.

    Generally, Italian teams are very well Organised in the back so that offers great protection to the GK as well. I don’t follow Italian Football so maybe a Roma fan can enlighten us more. Will our 3 man CB formation and our high line suit Szczesny? Or will the old failings show up again. Personally, I think Cech is slowing down but he is not helped by our lackadaisical attitude towards defending as a team. Even De Gea will be exasperated and made to look ordinary at Arsenal.

  14. One last thing:

    Arsenal have a reputation as a club that can’t do anything with keepers but how many former Arsenal keepers are playing at the top level?

    Mannone, Szczesny, Fabianski, and now Martinez. The only bad keeper we have had in the last 20 years was Almunia.

  15. I vote Szczesny stay.

    Usually when we loan players out it’s for one of two reasons: 1. Youngster needs experience. Let’s see how good he is right now. 2. Veteran has no place in the squad. Need to put him in shop window.
    I would say that latter scenario is why we seldom see loanees from the first team return. The loan is a symptom of lowly squad status.

    But what if Szczesny was a special case? He doesn’t fit neatly into either box… perhaps the thought with him was to give him a change of szczenery to allow him to grow a more mature head on his shoulders and to see if he would make trouble elsewhere too. If the club wanted to sell him surely last summer was the time to do so. Tthat they didn’t suggests they still saw a role for him. And with Czech nearing the end of his career, it’s a move that kept options open for the club and makes eminent sense. Why discard such a promising young player when a goalkeeping vacancy is looming? Why wouldn’t Wenger want him back, especially if the purpose of the loan was simply to Of course it depends on Szczesny too, but why wouldn’t he want to come back? I think it’s a move that makes sense for all involved and I would not be surprised to see a deal consummated.

    1. In case it wasn’t adequately clear above: I too vote Szczesny remain.

      If we’re talking what we want, as opposed to what we predict will happen, is anyone really completely behind a Szczesny leave vote?

  16. If Juve see him as the heir to Buffon, then by all means we should keep our GK. Most clubs would have told Juve that their opening bid was not worth the paper it was faxed on.
    Here are some the prices that highly rated GKs are going for these days:

    Szczesny should be at least valued at 20-25 mil IMO if we really want to sell him. I really dislike how Wenger’s valuations cut both ways. He may have a economically derived valuation on a player and won’t go above that amount but he does not seem to set our players’ valuations higher when he wants to sell like a RVP to maximize our return. I always thought some of our better players went for less than we should have gotten.

    We’ve seen the Martinez kid hanging around the block for awhile but what has he really done to get the #2 spot?

  17. First off, I would like for Szczesny to come back to Arsenal and if nothing, be the no. 2 keeper to begin with. Ospina is great but, he clearly is at an age where he wants to be the undisputed no. 1 keeper.

    As for Martinez, a long loan spell may be good for him with a team like Middlesborough who are in need of a goalkeeper, a good one. Having Cech and Szczesny compete for a place would allow for good competition and back up. Being a fan, it will not be too hard for him to be convinced.

    Tying players with a bright future & who can contribute to the club’s success in upcoming years is crucial. Alexis, Bellerin, Ox and Szczesny should top this list.

    Speaking of long term deals, a friend of mine suggested that selling Ozil in the summer and keeping Alexis may prove helpful as that money can be reused to buy a top quality forward and a proper winger like Mahrez or, Douglas Costa.

  18. Best case scenario in my view.. offer szczesny a competition to compete with cech for starting job. Convince him to sign a 2-3 yr deal with a release clause.. reasonable returns but not too high to price him out. That way if he fells his oppurtunities are limited, he can go to juve or anywhere for a fair price.
    If you are competing with buffon for starting job then you are never going to win that race. Their defence is not porous like ours. Very few room for a keeper to make mistakes and you know buffon!
    Meanwhile keep Martinez in the loop of this ongoing arrangement. If he feels to move on then either loan or sell him with some buy back arrangement and sell on prices.. so we get something if he becomes a neuer!

  19. The real reason Szcz left Arsenal, he called out Gerry Peyton as a useless GK coach, citing he much preferred working with the highly rated Tony Roberts, and Mad Jens when he was at the club doing his badges. Fabianski alluded to similar.
    The result, wenger made sure both his decent Polish keepers, and Tony Roberts out of the club, Roberts has not been replaced. Yet, the cutting edge GK Coach that is Gerry Peyton…a man who will ruin the best of keepers remains and has just signed a new contract. This despite Cechs desire to work with his old Chelsea coach…Lollichon
    The fact is, Wenger is even more defensive over his…erm…slightly dated…backroom staff than he is about himself, cross that bunch, and out

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