12 May 2014

Szczęsny's 15 sheets in the wind...

Like many of you, I was a bit confused and even disappointed to see that Łukasz Fabiański got the nod over Szczęsny against Norwich, assuming that it would deny Szcz a chance at the Golden Glove. Before the match, he had kept the same number of clean sheets as Chelsea's Petr Čech but had played more matches, which would hand the award to Čech. However, according to the Premier League's official twitter account, Čech and Szcz will share the award.
Once I got over my befuddlement, I thought I had come to grips with the decision. After all, an award like this one would might inflate Szczęsny's ego, and for as much as keepers thrive on confidence, Szczęsny if anything suffers a surfeit of it, so much so that he needed a benching last season to remind him that he's not irreplaceable and that he must work to earn and keep the #1 spot. He's been splendid since his return, although there have been a few moments to remind him and us that he's still learning. I saw this more-recent demotion as another nudge from Arsène that, for as good as he's become, he's not at the level on the pitch that he assumes he is in his mind.

Past that, I wondered if Arsène was tipping his hat to Čech, a world-class keeper who arguably deserves the recognition and award more than Szcz does. The man missed Chelsea's last three matches after injuring his shoulder against Atletico Madrid, and he might very well have earned the award had he faced Norwich or Cardiff. I wouldn't put it past Arsène to pull a move like this, even if it did benefit Chelsea. Then again, it might be a clever little jibe if Chelsea can only muster up one individual award while Arsenal come through to win the FA Cup. Time will tell. Thanks to Čech, at least Chelsea won't finish the season empty-handed. Aha. Ha. I promise that will be the only attempt at humor for the rest of the column.

More seriously, though, it turns out that, once again, I have little or no idea what I'm talking about. I know so little, in fact, that I don't know if  I know little or nothing. It's a bit of a catch-22. It turns out that Szcz does get to share the Golden Glove, which comes as a surprise to me as I was under the impression that the award could only go to one person. Perhaps Arsène knew ahead of the match that Szcz and Čech would share the award. This would negate the previous suggestion that Szcz was demoted to make sure he didn't get too big for his britches, but it would make sense as Arsène considers the FA Cup final. Having already stated that Fabiański would play the final, it would be important to give him a warm-up even if Norwich didn't test him very much. It's now a month since Fabiański faced Wigan, and even if the Golden Glove were to slip through Szcz's fingers, certainly the FA Cup means more to the squad than the individual award.

Some are licking their chops at the prospect of facing Hull, who seem to be sinking faster than the Titanic—winless in their last five, it would be easy to assume that they'll keel over before halftime on Saturday. The freedom that flows from that assumption means that Hull can play without pressure or worry while we fight to overcome not just them but a looonnnggg trophy-drought, not to mention trying to banish a fair few ghosts of past debacles against lower sides. At least Hull's name doesn't start with B.

With Fabiański again looking sharp on Sunday, we have to feel that the match is in good hands. This is a keeper who has earned two Man of the Match awards from whoscored.com (against Norwich and Bayern), came up with massive saves against Wigan in the shoot-out, and hasn't lost an FA Cup match yet. If there's one complaint to dredge up, it's that he hasn't kept a clean sheet in the competition since facing Tottenham in the 3rd round. I'm sure he'll do his best to set things right on Saturday. Should we bring home the Cup, Arsène's decision may well prove Solomonic: Szcz gets his award, Fab gets his, and the club claims silverware to cap off the season. Not bad. Not bad at all...