19 March 2013

Between the Sticks: Szczęsny and Čech...

Is Petr Čech about to replace Wojciech Szczęsny? Yesterday, apparently, a story made the rounds that suggested that Szczęsny might be on his way out due in part to recently being dropped in favor of Lukas Fabianski. Having been locked away for jury duty, I largely missed it other than to see the headlines once or twice when I had a moment to use my mobile. Frankly, I was too lazy to attempt to post on it, not least of all because the task of spelling the lad's name would be too much for my mobile screen. At any rate, it ended up being a whole lot of nothing, which is how it usually goes with 99.9% of transfer tales. However, it does raise the question of how to handle the keeper situation. Fabianski has had two solid games for us, but Szczęsny is still far and away our #1.

However, as I've previously written, the young Pole has not distinguished himself to the level we expect or need. Yes, he's been hung out to dry on many occasions, but that happens to all keepers from time to time.  In that earlier post, I bemoaned the fact that we so rarely emerge from a match with Szczęsny having delivered a MOTM-type performance and having a endured a MOTM-type performance from an opposing keeper. There are keepers who, by reputation and by performance, instill doubt and fear in opposing strikers  and, sadly, Szczęsny is not there yet on either element.

With this as background, I'll admit that I glanced at headlines suggesting that Szczęsny might be on his way out and didn't respond with much alarm. It might be down to Fabianski's recent play, the fact that we are now well within striking range of Spurs, or the idea that Szczęsny himself just hasn't impressed of late. However, he is only 22 and has made 72 Prem League appearances for that, so he figures on having a long and illustrious career. Now, news out that Chelsea's Petr Čech is on his way to Arsenal over the summer. This is as close as I'll come to transfer talk. I will say that this does excite me. He is among the Prem's best keepers and, at age 30, still has some legs in him. In fact, a signing like this could be ideal as it might provide a few years during which Čech and Szczęsny could alternate, the youth learning from the sage, until Szczęsny, with a few more years' seasoning, emerges as a more-polished, mature, and dominant keeper.

On the other hand, maybe a little transfer-talk is all we need. Szczęsny has no doubt seen the headlines and watched Fabianski. If this doesn't provide motivation for him to double-down in training and in matches, little else will. Signing an older keeper, maybe even older than Čech (Lehmann? Friedel?), could provide Szczęsny with a mentor who is content to stay on the bench and tutor. Signing anyone much younger than 30, such as Victor Valdes, might convince Szczęsny that his time is up. While this might prompt him to up his play briefly in order to pump up his financial value, it may leave us scrambling to replace him while relying more heavily on Fabianski and Mannone

As the season draws to a close, I hope that our two Poles can man the sticks well enough to help us cross the finish line among the top four. After that, we can well and truly assess our options and how best to move forward.