11 April 2013

A bumper crop of keepers

Depending on whom you believe, we're looking to sign one of five different keepers over the summer: Sunderland's Simon Mignolet, QPR's Julio Cesar, Stoke's Asmir Begovic, Barcelona's Victor Valdes, Real's Iker Casillas...it seems that the sky is the limit. Amid talk that Wenger is set to go on a real spending spree, signing one of the Prem's best keepers, or one of the world's best, seems like a great place to start. However, transfer rumors are a dime a dozena figure that probably overstates their value one hundred-fold. Therefore, I don't pay them a whole lot of attention. It's like missing the forest for the trees I don't care who the individuals are; I care only about the bigger picture, what the rumors suggest about the state of our club and its direction. Don't get me wrongcertain names will cause me to salivate, but I'm not reading anything more than the headlines. For now. I may change my tune come August.

I'm not going to bother dissecting the various rumors themselves. It's April. Until I read a headline that says "________ Has Signed for Arsenal, the Club Confirms" it's little more than idle speculation. I'd just as soon make predictions about which of the tens of thousands of asteroids in space will hit Earth, and I'd have just as much of a chance of being right. Therefore, let's work with what we have.
My first response is, "it's nice that we're showing some ambition." Whether we go for Begovic, a relative bargain, or really splurge on the likes of Valdes or Casillas, it's welcome change of pace from past transfer windows. Now, instead of fretting about who's trying to leave, we seem ready to focus on bringing some new faces in. Previous rumors have gone so far as to suggest that we've already agreed to terms with Jovetic. Sure. I'll believe it when it comes from the club site. Putting a finger to the air suggests that we're being linked to more players wanting to join than to players wanting to leave. An indirect hint, but a positive one nonetheless. So far, though, this is still little more than speculation. More substantive is what all this talk suggests about our current keepers.

My second response, then, is, "what does this tell us about Szczęsny?" Between injury and demotion, he's only made 19 Prem starts, and Fabiański has started the last three in a row, conceding two goals (he could have done better on the Reading goal,but he damn-near saved the West Brom spot-kick. Had he saved that, there'd be no discussion of who should face Norwich). How much rest is needed to overcome the mental fatigue that apparently triggered Szczęsny's demotion after the loss to Spurs? It's going on six weeks now. Is he misses any more matches, the talk may turn from "when will Szczęsny start?" to "how much can Arsenal get for him?"

The guy is only 22. For as brash as he may be, the risk that this demotion will damage his psyche grows with each passing day. While Fabiański has doen fairly well, it's not like he's dominated.  He's made, on average 2.33 saves per game but hasn't been sorely tested, and he hasn't made any mistakes. This is probably just enough to earn him the start against Norwich, especially after Szczęsny's dismal performance against Liverpool's U21s. It's hard to imagine this "rest" turning out worse for him. His replacement goes 3-0 while he struggles badly in what was supposed to be a tune-up leading to his return.

Can Wenger simply drop Fabiański and give Szczęsny a start, or does he have to wait for Fabiański to make some kind of mistake? Is Norwich too soon? After facing Norwich, we host Everton three days later. Is this Szczęsny's chance to reprove himself, while Fabiański rests?  I'm at a loss, frankly, and welcome any suggestions you have below the fold.