Szczesny’s Ghost

Unfinished business is one of the few things that makes a farewell bittersweet. If someone is going abroad for work and you know they will return, you can focus on the return. When someone leaves under a dark cloud we often feel both sad and relieved. But when someone leaves with unfinished business it’s like time for them just stops. We only remember them how they were. We wonder “what if?” And in that way, they become ghosts.

It’s odd that almost the entire human mythology around ghosts deals with unfinished business. In Japan there is a famous ghost story about a young girl named Okiku. Okiku was a servant to a powerful Samurai. The lord wanted to have her sexually and she refused all of his advances. So, the Samurai tricked her: he hid one of ten family heirlooms (plates) and blamed her for stealing. Normally, he said, she would have to pay for this crime with her life but he, being a gentle and kind lord, would wave the death sentence if she would requite his love.

Okiku refused and instead sought to prove her innocence, counting the plates over and over, reaching only 9 each time. Okiku became frenzied searching for the 10th plate and her lord once more offered to forgive her, for sex. She refused again and in a fit of rage, the Samurai threw her to her death down the castle well.

Okiku returned to haunt the Samurai. She would come to the castle every night, searching for the 10th plate. Counting slowly to nine and letting out a blood curdling shriek when she reached 10. It is said that the Samurai went mad and was killed in a rash attack on his enemies but Okiku still haunts his castle. It is also said that if you see Okiku, you can dismiss her by saying the number ten (Juu*) after she says the number nine. Thus, completing her count.

Wojciech Szczesny signed for Juventus today. Whether that was because Wenger threw him down the well or because Szczesny refused to play for Wenger we won’t know until Wenger or Szczesny write their explosive tell all book, “Smoking in the Boys Room”.

But what I do know is that Szczesny’s departure from Arsenal is one of the most bittersweet in recent years. He’s a 27 year old goalkeeper with massive potential going to a club with an impressive pedigree where he will no doubt compete for football’s highest honors. And every time Szczesny makes a great save in a Champions League match, or wins the Serie A with Juventus, his ghost will haunt our blogs and Twitter feeds.

And to make things worse, Szczesny has given us all a heartfelt fond farewell. RIP Szczesny.

I remember being a young boy in Poland, watching David Seaman, Thierry Henry, Dennis Berkamp and others play for Arsenal. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get a chance to play for the club I supported as a little kid. When I was approached by Arsenal in 2005 my world changed forever. I began my journey as a 16 year old boy at the Arsenal's academy, trying to one day become a first team player, going out for evening runs in East Barnet with Jack Wilshere. Little did we know then, that couple years later we'd beat Barcelona in the Champions League and wear the no.1 and no.10 shirts. It has been over 11 years since I became an Arsenal player and I never thought the day I leave this club would come. Everything that I am and everything that I have, I owe to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Liam Brady, David Court, Bob Arber, Steve Bould, Neil Banfield, Mike Salmon, Tony Roberts, Gerry Peyton, Pat Rice and many others. Words can't describe my gratitude to these people and love for this club. Today I move on, ready for the new challenge in my life, taking with me only the good memories and bag of expierience. I leave hopeful that those days of Berkamp,Henry, Seaman and others are soon to return to Emirates Stadium and Arsenal get back to winning the Premier League. I may not be an Arsenal player no more but I will carry the Arsenal name with me wherever I go and I will do so with great pride. Once a Gunner, always a Gunner! ❤

A post shared by Wojciech Szczesny (@wojciech.szczesny1) on

*The number 9 in this story is important because the pronunciation of 9 in Japanese (ku) is a homophone for suffering. 10 in Japanese has an added connotation of completeness because it’s a homophone for “enough” (Juuppon).



  1. We all knew this day was coming… but it is still hitting me harder than i thought it would. Very sad to see him go.

    Does anyone think this sale was ALL about the smoking incident? What else could it be? On every other level this makes zero sense for Arsenal, both this coming season and future seasons beyond.

  2. I’m disappointed and sad to see him leave. I always thought he could be great, and though we were right to replace him with Cech, I was hoping he could come back and be our No1.

    A few things that might have gone towards this decision.
    1. The smoking incident and whatever else happened.
    2. Petr Cech. He might not have had a great season but there’s other intangibles he brings, and there’s no way he’s done yet. Wenger’s not going to demote a guy like that who displays loyalty, leadership and sets an example.
    3. Which in turn might explain Szczesny’s desire to leave. Yeah he’ll be backup to Buffon, but that’s likely going to be only for a year and he’ll still get some league game time as Gigi is 40 years old and doesn’t need to play every game. Plus he probably feels settled and happy in Italy too.
    4. Emi Martinez. A different personality but a guy who’s taken much the same journey as Szczesny and has always behaved well and spoken well of the club. Might also have the talent to become the keeper Szczesny is.
    5. Szcz’s contract maybe?

    I wonder what this means for Ospina.

  3. By the way, by the looks of it, Juve fans aren’t as excited about this as we might expect. I mean no one’s unhappy about it but most aren’t jumping for joy either. Which for what is the statistically best keeper in Serie A seems a weird reaction to me. I think they’re wrong and have got a great player for a great deal, but then they watch Serie A more than me, so who knows?

  4. Classy stuff, Sir Chesny. Be good, brother.

    Perplexing, and slightly sad departure. “Arsene knows” takes on new meaning… there’s more to this story, and he knows why were are selling, for peanuts, a vastly improved keeper nearing his prime.

    Very significant that he should mention Wilshere, because they were as tight as two ticks. Something’s not right in Smokers’ Corner.

  5. Yet another youth product sent packing… Szczesny, Wilshere and Gibbs to follow soon.

  6. More bitter than sweet. In fact, there’s nothing sweet about it for me and I think selling Szczesny is a mistake. Having managed Nagoya Grampus, I wonder if Wenger knows such sad tales as the one of Okiku. And if he does I wonder if he worries about the ghosts of all the players he sent away who didn’t reward his faith and hope. I suppose It’s good thing that he can count 1-10 in so many languages. He may need all of them.

    I’m happy for the Pole in that it must be the biggest honor in contemporary football for a young keeper to be the potential heir apparent to names like Dino Zoff and Gianluigi Buffon. Best of luck to him.

  7. Chelsea have signed Morata for 60m. No disrespect to Lukaku, but I think I know which club got the better deal there. We probably never had a chance with Morata, and I personally rate Lacazette highly, but I wish we would at least have gone after the Real Madrid man. 60m for him in this market is not quite a steal, but it’s great business. I think he’ll be a big star, and he would have been perfect for us (for one thing, would have allowed us to make 25-30m by selling Giroud, without us worrying that we’re losing skills only he possesses in the squad).

    Honestly, as much as we shouldn’t discount the fact that City and Chelsea have had a massive “head start” with their years of crazy spending to become elite clubs before financial fair play set in (and our own years of stadium austerity ended), you have to say that Chelsea’s upper level management have been brilliant in the last six or seven years, playing the market really shrewdly in that time despite the revolving door of managers (their big mistakes–losing De Bruyne and Lukaku–were down to Mourinho, not his bosses). When you look at, e.g., Nathan Ake being sold for 20m and Szszesny going for 10m, you have to say that they’re light years ahead of us.

    1. I believe Ake counts as homegrown and he went a premier league club. Those two factors alone carries a lot of premium, but yeah, I agree 10 mil of Szczesney is below what he should have gone for.

      1. Agreed but we did also get two years worth of loan fees for him. Don’t know how much that was.

          1. Eh? There was some hold up with his loan agreement last season. Was it only around a buy out clause and not a fee? Weird if so.

    2. I like Morata but I don’t see him as the finished article. Chelsea have their work cut out for them if they are going to get his full value. But still… £60m is CHEAP in this market (which is a really insensitive thing to say).

      Chelsea pay agents. I’m certain that’s how they get their deals done so fast and how they are able to ship players off to China/PSG for huge sums.

      I mean, Arsenal should be looking to offload Wilshere in China! Gibbs to MLS!

      1. Agree that 60m is cheap, but this might be going towards funding Mbappe. Also agree that he’s not the finished article. I said I’d prefer Lacazette for his current production even though Morata’s ceiling is higher. Let’s hope he doesn’t prove me wrong.

        1. Damn… they offload Morata and get Mbappe in return and I just saw that they got 10m Euros for James on LOAN. Plus there was the whole Özil-Bale thing… Add Real Madrid to the group of clubs who seem to do great business.

          1. Madrid have been brilliant in their transfer dealings for a while now. They’re buying younger and actually building a team, including from their youth ranks, instead of just buying galacticos.

            Also, there’s some weird collaboration going on between Bayern, Real and Juventus in how they deal with each other. Kroos to Real, Xabi Alonso to Bayern, Vidal to Bayern, Coman on 2 year loan (and transfer) to Bayern, Khedira (on a free) to Juventus, The deal with Morata, and now Douglas Costa. And of course James Rodriguez.

          2. Maybe we can finally get Benzema this summer. Help Madrid push the Mbappe bid up to 150m.

      2. Guardian are reporting a fee of 70million with the add ons. Crazy money but a fair deal in today’s market. Arguably a bigger risk than Lukaku.

        Let’s hope it’s Lacazette that is seen as the bargain at the end of the season. There was good signs in the game against Munich with Ozil linking up delightfully with the clever runs of our new man.

    3. I’d suppose the fact that Chelsea aren’t afraid to carry large wages on their roster counts in their favour when negotiating deals. With us, when we want to sell a player, we pretty much seem to set a low baseline because we’d rather take the money, lose the wages, and move on.

      1. Clubs like Real aren’t scared to cut loose players who don’t meet the club’s standards/requirements. For every good transfer there are two duds but correcting those mistakes quickly keeps the squad strong.

        Wenger tends to hang onto players for far too long. Therefore his transfer mistakes have a longer negative effect on his squads. I can’t fathom why/how Elneny for instance is going to survive another transfer window when he isn’t adding anything to the team.

        Getting non performers out quickly is just as important as getting the right players in.

    4. You had a really great comment yesterday and I deleted it on accident. It was filtered out because you used the d word.

      Sorry about that.

    5. Morata for 60m is the best business done this window. Call me stupid, but I think his upside his potentially higher than Lukaku. And if we were interested in upgrading on Giroud, Morata is more of a CF than Lacazette. Tall, strong with really good feet. I still remember that run he made for Juve against Bayern, he dribbled half the field with 4 Bayern players hanging on him before he passed to Cuadrado for the goal. Brilliant.

  8. Clubs like Real aren’t scared to cut loose players who don’t meet the club’s standards/requirements. For every good transfer there are two duds but correcting those mistakes quickly keeps the squad strong.

    Wenger tends to hang onto players for far too long. Therefore his transfer mistakes have a longer negative effect on his squads. I can’t fathom why/how Elneny for instance is going to survive another transfer window when he isn’t adding anything to the team.

    Getting non performers out quickly is just as important as getting the right players in.

  9. Szczesny’s departure is really strange because in a year we will need a keeper again.

    Why Wenger groomed Szczesny for so long only to cut him loose over one incident is baffling. The loan spell seemed sufficient punishment to me.

  10. Sorry folks, but in the larger scheme of things, I don’t think Arsenal can have a reputation of a “ruthless-winning” club.

    Kick Cech, a loyal and dedicated player out of the door, so that we can get a younger GK with more potential in?

    Such reputation draws the biggest winners/egos, with the biggest transfer fees and the biggest agent fees…..and we are anything but that.

    We are a club with a reputation that takes care of its folks when they are down. We give servants who have displayed loyalty like Carzola and Arteta financial security when they are injured.

    I think this is one of the reasons why Cech forced a move to Arsenal for lets put it, relative peanuts.

    In the same coin, I think Wenger let Chezzer go for similar reasons. Of course the main issue is that, Chezzer wants to go ONLY to Juventus and he is in the final year of his contract. But if Arsenal wants to behave like a “big/bully” club, they can just throw him out and auction him like some rich meat and poison things by leaking stories to the press.

    But the transfer to Juventus has been largely harmonious. Everyone said nice things and the transfer went smoothly with no drama.

  11. Man o man- the Arsenal just lost a really good keeper who would cost us at least 30-35 mill to find as a replacement. Better hope Emi can move ahead quickly.,
    Me, I believe Szcz told Arsene to FO in no uncertain terms. This was when the back line was decimated and had like 8 different starting line ups in front of him. Who would not have told the bugger to go to hell?
    Will find out the truth some day.
    Now, sign a darn DM, and another striker-get rid of the old pine riding the pine.
    Some of the youngsters look quick and relatively strong for their ages.

  12. Ghost Gunner, very valid point about hanging on too long. The flip sode is not good either. I feel like kicking my own head in when I hear that Lacazette was scouted for ten years. TEN YEARS!?!? WTH! He could have bought him after monitoring scouting him for 3 years, tried him out and if he didn’t make the grade move him on for a what will most likely have been a profit. It’s made all the worse by the fact that Arsenal was his second choice. So a decade’s worth of work will have come to nought. For all his frugality, it seems Le Prof is blissfully unaware of the time value of money.

    Even now we have him, if he does not get to Ronaldoesque levels then in my opinion, that is a huge waste of resources. 10 years while France alone literally rolled two teams worth of generational players off their conveyor belt, never mind Spain’s golden era.

  13. Tim, wonderful article once again. It’s been a while you wrote in a way that transcends football. Thanks

  14. no doubt, szczesny was a gooner to the bone. shameful to see such a talented player depart under these circumstances. this move supports the running narrative i’ve had over the past few years where i declare that any seemingly dumb move arsenal makes has to do more with wenger’s ego than his faux loyalty to a player or anything else. this man is determined to prove his intelligence transcends conventional wisdom. if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, why can’t it just be a duck?

    sucks to see morata go to chelsea for only £60 million. i would have loved to see him at arsenal. he’s one of about a dozen or so center forwards that’s clearly better than giroud (i don’t think lacazette’s on that list). in fairness, chelsea had a huge advantage over arsenal. not only are chelsea a champions league team, conte and morata have a relationship from their time at juventus together. still, for that price, i would have loved to see arsenal at least ask the question. morata is going to be world class and chelsea gives him a very decent platform to establish himself as spain’s #9 going into next summer’s world cup.

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