Tag Archives: goalkeeper

Wojicech Szczesny – Were We Right To Sell?

Posted originally on Arsenal Mania

Wojicech Szczesny spent 11 years at Arsenal. In that time, and growing as a player through the Gunners ranks, his attachment to the club unsurprisingly grew. Over a decade at the club he supported as a boy, the bond the Pole had with Arsenal only became stronger.


So it was with an undoubtedly heavy heart that he bade farewell to North London recently, when he was offered the chance to play for Juventus and work alongside Gianluigi Buffon – the keeper that most consider to be this generation’s finest exponent between the sticks.


The prospect for his career was simply too good to turn down, but was it the right decision for Arsenal?












With last season’s miasma of horrors still so hard to erase from our mind’s eye, many of us fans looked to Szczesny’s efforts on loan at Roma, and with Petr Cech letting his high standards slip – it appeared as though we had the perfect remedy to clam up our porous team.


There are many other facets to this transfer though, that have not risen to the surface as prominently as the above though.


Szczesny performed way above expectation in Serie A last campaign, but the level of competition between the two league’s is still different. A perfect example of this is Gervinho – the Ivorian was an abject failure in an Arsenal shirt, but when playing for Roma only a few seasons ago, he looked like an accomplished professional. It is especially easier to grab clean sheets in the attritional playing styles of Italy too.


True, it looked as if the Polish keeper with a penchant for selfies at White Hart Lane had indeed acquired the one thing that stopped him being a great keeper at Arsenal – consistency. We can give him the benefit of the doubt, but can we forget?


Twice, the Number1 shirt was in his grasp in his time in London, and twice, continued erratic displays meant that Wenger had no choice but to drop him – once for Lukasz Fabainski and once for David Ospina. Five seasons was spent trying to establish himself and firmly rebuff all other goalkeeping competitors, but he never quite managed it. Whether it be silly mistakes on the pitch, like when he fouled Gabby Agbonlahor in the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, or when he was caught smoking in the showers, Szczesny couldn’t quite leave the doubts behind.


Now, after two excellent seasons in Rome, he was given an opportunity to work at Juventus. It would have been impossible to turn down, but what really rankles is that, why did Arsenal not hold out for more money?


Considering the experience that Szczesny has, and his still relatively young age, his transfer worth must have been higher than the reported meagre fee that we have received. When a young English keeper plays one season of top-flight football, gets relegated and then commands a £30m fee – that should have correlated into a higher fee for Wojicech too.


The fanbase, when poring over tweets and posts on social media, seems to be undecided on whether Wojicech Szczesny was the long-term answer in goal for our club, but we can all agree that he is worth far more than Juventus are scantily paying us. 

Jens Lehmann Comes Back To Arsenal

After such an unparalleled achievement as ‘The Invincible Season,’ the raft of documentaries, reading material and general content surrounding the exploits of the unbeaten Arsenal team of 2003/04, it means we have been treated to all angles of the gold-trophy winning campaign.

The majority of the men who made it possible have given their views and anecdotes on what occurred during that halcyon time, and watching them all speak about their teammates and the incidents which transpired on the pitch is still fascinating.

What gives these teams who achieve the impossible, an edge over their opponents? Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry et al have given their musings on the special blend of ingredients in the squad, and there was one common strand which was highlighted by many of these heroes.

It was the fiery, bubbling rapport which often erupted in vigorous, no-holds-barred training sessions. Every player gave their all and never held back, such was the winning mentality running deep within them all.

There was one man though, that perhaps was the embodiment of this competitive habit. 

Jens Lehmann was talked about with a wry smile by many of the players as one who would never back down, and often being the spark which would ignite some heated moments. 

Ray Parlour mentioned Lehmann’s disgust for any who attempted to lob him, and the many times in which players would attempt to do the very thing which would manifest Jen’s rage. It was Lehmann’s pride and his search for excellence which would not allow any such slights against his name. 

 The German  – aptly nicknamed ‘Mad’ by fans – already had a reputation for his exploits with opponents on the pitch, but these soundbites from his fellow Invincibles showed that no matter if it was a crunch game against Manchester United or 5 vs 5 on the pitches at London Colney – he would take every goal personally.

So, the news that Mad Jens is back at Arsenal in a First Team Coach capacity is something we should all be pleased with.

There have been many quarters who have talked of Arsene Wenger’s iron grip behind the scenes, and his need for absolute sway when decisions are made. With Lehmann being given such a prominent role in Wenger’s team, this could well mean that Wenger will have far more discussions about tactics and such than he has ever had before. 

Not only this, but with Wenger personally inviting him into the fold, does this mean that the Frenchman is finally acknowledging the need for a shakeup at ground level?

Lehmann on the training pitch will be exactly the same as Lehmann with his gloves on. He will not allow any quarter to be given by the players, nor will he expect anything other than the squad seeking to improve, rather than plateau.

The German is an excellent addition, and any former heroes should have an open invite to work with the club. Respect is earned, and the players will be aware of Lehmann’s achievements. This commands each and every man to listen that little bit more, to really soak in Lehmann’s advice. With Wenger recruiting Lehmann, it gives each training session that little bit more gravitas.

Not that any man should be taking any session lightly. If any of them were skating by, then that is surely a thing of the past. 

Who would want to cross Mad Jens Lehmann?

Petr Cech Needs to Check Himself – Before He Wrecks Himself

Four Golden Glove Awards is not easily achieved.

It is the watermark of a fabulous career and of the highest talent. 

Petr Cech has amassed every trophy at club level that a player can grab. He is recognised as one of the finest goalkeepers to have graced the Premiership since it began. He has been a flagbearer of consistency for over a decade.

His move across London to Arsenal saw this continue, but a dip in form this season has fired off alarm bells. Cech has dipped before, but it has never lasted for such a long period of time. This season so far has seen the bar which he raised so high himself, loom high above him. He has not been able to replicate what has been the norm for so long.

The standards that he set at Chelsea – and last season with us – when compared to what he has given us this season, is startlingly different. 

For over a decade, Cech was the foundation on which Chelsea began their assault on the Premier League – and then Europe. When any of his teammates dipped in form, there was always a capable understudy waiting in the wings to usurp them in the lineup.

His longevity at Chelsea as their undisputed Number One spells out his supremacy between the sticks. If he did not maintain his levels of excellence, then he would have been unable to record his amount of appearances – and his haul of clean sheets.

Upon joining last season, he became the first goalkeeper to win the Golden Glove award with two different clubs. This was with a defence in front of him which was lambasted by pundits and experts alike.

This season though, there is a contrast in Cech’s performances. Gone is the commanding presence in the box. No longer is he the ever-present reliability which eases defender’s minds. Also, he has been beaten on more than one occasion at his near post by questionable efforts.

He has faced many penalties this season too – and his lackadaisical effort to stop the spot-kicks have been laughable. It appears to many that he is far too slow to get down to the turf, that his height is finally playing against him rather than for him.

Is it age? Cech is 34, and goalkeepers at this age have more than a few years left at their peak at this age, as opposed to outfielders who by this age are approaching their twilight years.

Plus, Cech has put in sporadic displays this season which have shown us he is still capable of his masterful ways. 

So this points us to a dip in form. When players drop their levels and are struggling for purchase, it is conventionally about ten to twelve games that sees them return to their best.

Cech has been underperforming from the start of the season. His regular comments in the media reverberate with leadership qualities, of words of a winner. His actions on the pitch echo the actions of a man who needs a reminder that he is not undroppable.

His understudy, David Ospina, has been performing minor miracles in his role as Cup Keeper. The South American cannot do any more to put pressure on Arsene Wenger to give him a shot as Number One. With Wojicech Szczesny also lighting up Serie A with Roma – Cech should see this as a warning that his form will not do.

Instead, he continues to underwhelm. For a man with such high expectations after a career of glittering moments, Cech is shaming his own record. 

What really underlines Cech’s fall from grace is how his teammates are doing. These players who are capable of brilliant things, are suffering from a lack of consistency which has hampered our campaign this season. Complacency has set in with a few Gunners, and it has seen them put in some shifts which have given opponents a weakness which they can exploit.

Complacency is a asickness that can only be treated with a harsh reminder of their own mortality. Cech needs a spell on the bench to implant the notion that this is not good enough.

Cech is far from finished – but he is letting the side down and himself – which for a habitual winner, is not acceptable. 

David Seaman – The Safest Of Hands.

The old adage goes, ‘You have to be mad to be a goalkeeper.’ This stereotype is a perfect fit for the majority of the men between the sticks, as they fling head and body into situations and places that would normally warrant full-body protection gear. 

Not only is it physical danger that makes up a large part of their vocation. Long periods of solitude during games, with only vitriolic masses as company, goalkeepers spend a huge amount of time attempting to stay alert, battling their own wits as the play unfolds away from them.

David Seaman does not fit this well-worn molding. Standing tall at 1.93 metres, the giant keeper was the anti-thesis of the usual mental framework of a man wearing Number One on his back.

Perhaps his greatest strength was his zen-like temperament. No matter the battle that was ensuing in front of him, or even if it was directed at him, the deep-voiced Yorkshireman simply got on with his game. 

Was it his level of concentration that allowed him to brush off any extraneous niggles that would waylay a regular goalkeeper? Or was it merely his upbringing and his personality that meant he cared little for drama? Either way, it allowed Seaman to fully exert his towering influence into being the sure footing that his defence needed.

The big man from Leeds that would go on to be known as ‘Safe Hands’ started his career with his hometown club, Leeds United, but he didn’t feature in the Managers plans, so a £4k move to Peterborough United gave his career the escape route it needed.

Two full seasons in the then 4th Division were enough to see him catapult up to the 2nd, with a move to Birmingham City. Again, two full seasons was all it took for David to earn another transfer up the leagues – this time to QPR.

This gave him the spotlight his dazzling talent deserved, and he soon piqued the interest of England boss Bobby Robson. It wasn’t only Robson and England that were sniffing round the Yorkshireman either.

Arsenal had an inside man at QPR, and he was ideally placed to run the rule over Seaman. His goalkeeping coach at Loftus Road was none other than 1971 Double winning keeper Bob Wilson, and Arsenal’s gentleman had a very high opinion of David.

Before the season of 1990/91 began, Arsenal and George Graham moved to bring him to Highbury. The current Gunners keeper was the popular John Lukic, but Graham badly wanted who he thought would be the future England Number One for years to come. He wasn’t wrong. 

His first season at Arsenal underlined his talent in the most emphatic way. 23 clean sheets and just 18 goals conceded embossed and emboldened Graham’s comments before purchasing Seaman – “I still think John Lukic is one of the top three goalkeepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best.”

Thirteen seasons of excellence was David Seaman’s legacy at the club. A hatful of trophies were symptomatic of his professionalism and he must surely rank as one of the finest exponents of goalkeeping the Premier League has ever seen.

It is criminal to round up Seaman’s Arsenal career in just a few paragraphs, but to truly do the big man justice, you would be reading this article from sun up to sundown. The man with the famous ponytail and best moustache since Magnum P.I gave our club the most assured presence in the box, and this in turn was a massive factor for why our club could boast the finest defence the League has ever seen. For how good can a defence be without a great goalkeeper behind them?

The majority of non-Gooners will always recall Seaman being lobbed by Ronaldinho, and allied with Nayim’s lob for Zaragoza, means that Seaman will unfairly have his critics. A goalkeeper has the hardest job on the pitch though – in what other position can you play well for 89 minutes but a simple mistake will more often than not result in disaster?

Seaman was the silent sentry that stood guard for well over a decade, and his consistently epic displays spread out over such a long tenure spells out a goalkeeping career that deserves to stand tall alongside the greatest that the world has had to offer. Dino Zoff, Lev Yashin, Gianluigi Buffon, Andoni Zubizaretta, and Peter Schmeichel are regarded as the examples that all young keepers must aspire to. 

David Seaman deserves to be included in that glittering group of goalies. 

Safe Hands was a more than warranted moniker for him. 

Goodbye Szczesny, and thanks for the memories….

Original post on Goonersphere

On the 5th of August, there was a piece of transfer news that slipped under the radar somewhat regarding Arsenal.

A player had left the Gunners fold, one who is held in high regard by fans. Wojicech Szczesny was declared to have left Arsenal on loan once more as he did last season – the destination once more was Roma.

This felt a little different to last season however. Szczesny moved initially to ensure minutes on the pitch, with a view to reminding Arsene Wenger what he is capable of. Thirty four appearances and a third placed Serie A finish later, Szczesny could look back on an accomplished campaign.

He must have returned to Colney with renewed hope of ousting current first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, or at least enjoying a duel with the Czech stopper. The news he must have received though, could not have been to his taste, as he once more looks to play in Rome for the season.

A second season long loan indicates that Szczesny’s Arsenal career is hanging by a thread. The situation he finds himself in is that the position he desires is unattainable at present. Petr Cech holds – and deserves to – the first choice goalkeeping slot. Does Wojicech have the patience to wait for his dream to come to fruition?

The Pole has never been short of confidence, which in turn has been his strength and his greatest weakness. In the 2013/14 season he shared the Golden Glove award with the same man who blocks his passage at Arsenal – Cech – and his future seemed assured. The next season saw Szczesny lose concentration on a number of occasions and his rise to prominence was halted a little.

Szczesny’s Arsenal career has been a series of peaks and troughs. A season of dependable displays and assured displays were surely followed by a campaign which was evidence of the chinks in his armour. 

There has never been doubts surrounding his talent, but his mentality has been subject to scrutiny. The position he so craves at the club he clearly adores was in his grasp – twice – but mistakes made were to plant doubt in the manager’s mind. This was swiftly followed by a spell on the bench – or a new goalkeeper coming in.

Reportedly, Roma have a clause inserted into the loan deal which allows them the first look at a permanent deal for Wojicech. A second season at the Stadio Olimpico shows that Luciano Spalletti rates him highly, and Szczesny will no doubt enjoy the fact he is the undisputed number one for his team. 

So all things appear to point toward a departure from Arsenal for our Polish keeper. If a poll asked one hundred Gooners about their opinions regarding him, would he be rated above David Ospina? The Colombian has rarely put a foot wrong since joining, but doesn’t enjoy the bond with the fans that Szczesny has. Will Szczesny be missed?

Szczesny has been responsible for some fantastic memories – none more so than his celebrations after a North London derby victory – and his antics via social media have been a tenable link between fans and the players we laud on the pitch. He enjoyed the spotlight we shone on him, and he in turn gave us something we all enjoyed, which was a player we could relate to. We could all see the fan in him, that aspect of him that took great joy from victory, just like us.

He is a fantastic shot stopper, and has no problem owning his box. He has also shown he can attain consistency over a whole season. It is when he has no one breathing down his neck that Wojicech suffers with blips in his performance. A second season in Serie A will undoubtedly benefit him, but if we were to recall him, would he be content with the Number two slot?

Petr Cech has plenty of life in him, but David Ospina will surely look to other offers with a second season as deputy. That would mean a spot opening up on the Arsenal goalkeeping roster, but will Szczesny’s ego allow him to sit in the shadows for a season or two, until the first choice opening becomes available?

For now, we must keep an eye on his results in Rome, and when this season ends, it is his choice to make. Utilise patience, and allow himself the chance to be a Gunners icon for many seasons? Or choose to leave? 

The Lonely Walk

Sixty seconds.

In sixty seconds, you could be heralded as a hero, adored by millions. Your face will be etched permanently in memory, your name will be sung like legends in folk songs.

Or you could be forever synonymous with failure. When you are as close as you stand to glory – so bright you cannot comprehend its vision – to sink from this lofty position would result in a fall from grace so swift, you would always carry the mental scars.

You stand in the centre circle.  It is your turn.

Continue reading The Lonely Walk

Arsenal 0-0 Southampton – Home Truths As Stalemate Occurs Again

’80’s Hip-Hop collective De La Soul laid down some lyrics that seem very relevant right now for Gooners.

Three, is the magic number.

Now, it wasn’t quite ‘magic’, but the number three conspired to rob Arsenal of three points and put a rather ugly dent in our title challenge.

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Continue reading Arsenal 0-0 Southampton – Home Truths As Stalemate Occurs Again

John Lukic – The Overlooked Legend

Published in the Gooner Fanzine. Pick up yours outside the Emirates every matchday!

With a club that has the proud stature and backstory peppered with luminaries and glorious occasions – it can be forgiven for the majority to disregard certain former players and consign certain matches to the part of the brain that is covered by a shroud which makes recollection difficult.
Much has been written and spoke of regarding our goalkeepers of late, with the esteemed Petr Cech finally seeing sense and ridding himself of the shackles from West London. Comparisons inevitably are drawn up against our former glove incumbents – and what a glowing list we can boast of. David Seaman, Jens Lehmann, Pat Jennings, the wonderful Bob Wilson, Jack Kelsey just to name a few. These names dovetail with success and are synonymous with the club we all adore.

As moments go, there are few that can match May 26th 1989 at Anfield. Forever entwined in our lore, with a quite excellent book and film to highlight just how momentous the match and season really was, there can be no doubt that all who were involved throughout that domestic campaign and especially during those fraught ninety minutes in Merseyside should have their names permanently etched into our tapestry.

Continue reading John Lukic – The Overlooked Legend

Petr Cech – The Final Piece in the Jigsaw?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Last seasons excellent run of form coincided with the emergence of a certain Francis Coquelin. The much-travelled Gaul evidenced every asset that fans and indeed the team – were crying out for. Prior to his surprise inclusion we had looked similar to previous seasons efforts – pleasing on the eye, capable of running rings around any team, but brittle in the heat of battle.

The ‘Coq Block’ proved to be ridiculously effective. Those that are interested in stats marvelled at his numbers as he repelled wave after wave of attack with bared teeth and trademark grimace. The fact he had been one of our recruits for a number of years and not a £25million superstar holding midfielder was a stumbling block for a lot of Gooners but week after week, his performances were so complete that he convinced the majority that he was the answer to the conundrum which had plagued Arsenal for some time. He was the midfielder we had been lacking. That’s not to say he could do with a little help perhaps…..

We were close to the complete team. Now all we needed was an accomplished goalkeeper…..

Continue reading Petr Cech – The Final Piece in the Jigsaw?

Ospina Cech’s Out of Arsenal?

Eight clean sheets in eighteen League games hardly screams incompetent, does it?

So the rumours gathering pace today surrounding our Columbian shot-stopper David Ospina being given an escape route from the ignominy of being benched to Fenerbahce give an air of the unbelievable.

Yet, I released a blog surrounding Cech, Ospina and Szczesny only two months ago and the prospective chances of Cech joining, Ospina holding the No.1 jersey and Szczesny reclaiming it.

Bearing in mind, it is still in the rumour stage, but there is a sliver of credence to this story. Petr Cech, he of the fantastic collection of Golden Glove awards, has been linked so heavily with Arsenal that bookies have now stopped taking bets on the Czech goalkeeper donning a red and white safety cap next season. Continue reading Ospina Cech’s Out of Arsenal?