Often an incredibly loyal man and boss to his players, Arsène Wenger has seemingly given up on a player who he initially held in high regard for many years. Through the questionable performances and erratic decision-making, there was hidden and occasional glimpses of the talent Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny demonstrated in an Arsenal jersey.
Signed in 2006 from Legia Warsaw, the exciting 6’5 shot-stopper entered the Arsenal academy as a promising talent who Wenger said he had “identified as a future great, great goalkeeper.” Fast forward eleven years and the French manager has sold the Polish international in his prime to Italian giants Juventus for only €15.3m.
After two calamitous errors, which led to both goals in a 2-0 defeat to Southampton in January 2015, it appeared that Szczęsny had lost the confidence of his manager and was sent packing the following summer on a two-year loan to Roma.
While in Italy, the former Arsenal man has demonstrated why Wenger continued to believe in his ability and never look for greater experience between the sticks, despite numerous calls from the Arsenal fans. Since the move to the Emirates, the Gunners have stagnated as a team and have struggled to dominate in a competitive league, often playing with the approach that we will win by outscoring the opposition. That is all well and good if you are a Barcelona or Bayern Munich who have 70% possession every game, but in the Premier League this does not happen.
Repeatedly when Szczęsny was in goal, Arsenal conceded as he was left as a vulnerable target to guard the net. When the team struggled, the Polish international often made further mistakes in a desperate attempt to help the team he loved.
He has finally come of age while on loan in Italy and a number of fine performances for the Giallorossi, where he kept the highest number of clean sheets in Serie A last season, made a number of suitors including the eventual champions Juventus stand up and take notice.
With the Old Lady number one Gianluigi Buffon admitting the 2017/18 season could be his last one in the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri and high ranking officials at the club have made the smart move to replace the legend before it happens. He will still keep his place as the undoubted first choice for next season, but now they have planned beyond the World Cup winner with the bargain acquisition of Szczęsny.
The question remains, why has Wenger not done the same? As it is often the case with Arsenal, they have allowed a number of key players contracts to run down, with Szczęsny following the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs in having one-year left on their current deals.
Therefore, potential suitors like Juventus can get talented players like Szczęsny on the cheap and at the same time humiliate the Gunners. If Wenger thought the 27-year-old was a “great, great goalkeeper” all those years ago, stuck by him through the worst times and let him go on the cheap when he hit his prime, that shows poor planning, judgement and naivety a coach with over 30 years managerial experience.
As respected goalkeeper Petr Cech nears the end of his career, Szczęsny would have been the perfect replacement. He is the right age, loves the club and has grown as a player while in Italy. Now Juventus will reap the rewards of eleven years training in London, while Arsenal will have to scour the market for an over-expensive replacement.