Tag Archives: poland

Krystian Bielik – Giant StridesĀ 

Krystian Bielik joined Arsenal in January 2015 from Legia Warsaw as a defensive midfielder, but it is his conversion to central defence that has seen him encroach upon first team territory.

Fans expected much from this Polish prodigy, reports of his fast track to the Legia first team, and his overall technique, saw him unfairly compared to Patrick Vieira, but Gooners would have to wait to see him take to the field in the first team.

His debut was made in the inauspicious – and quite frankly disastrous – 3-0 mauling at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. He replaced the overwhelmed Glenn Kamara in defensive midfield, but his development in defence had already far before then.

It was only a few months into his Arsenal career that his talents were perceived to be a fine fit for the backline, and he started to make appearances for the Arsenal youth team in defence ( thank you to Jeorge Bird, who you can follow on Twitter at @jeorgebird if you want the heads up on all Arsenal youth ).

Bielik had made an astronomical rise at Legia Warsaw in his short time there. He was just 16 when he made his bow, and it seems that Bielik is more than familiar with defying odds. You need only look at his displays in this bout of pre-season friendlies to see that Bielik has again made huge strides in his progress.

Appearances in the 1-1 draw against RC Lens, and the victories over the MLS All-Star team and Chivas de Guadalajara, have underlined the potential that Bielik possesses. In particular, his half that he played against the creme of the MLS showed that Bielik may yet be an option for the near future.

Tasked with quelling the threat of David Villa and perennial Arsenal destroyer Didier Drogba, most would have fairly been of the opinion that the Pole would struggle. Throw in the fact that his partner at the back was new signing Rob Holding – and you had a recipe that potentially could have been another crushing blow to his hopes akin to the Sheffield Wednesday nightmare.

We needn’t have feared though. His performance was imperious. Rob Holding may have grabbed the headlines, but Bielik and his composure at the back was just as important. He also showed he was more than adept at playing the ball out from the back, being the catalyst for moves. His origins in midfield seemed to provide him with just another arrow to his quiver. His passing seemed slick, and his awareness was on point. 

Another plus point was his physical prowess. His aerial duels with Drogba were compelling viewing, and he more than held his own. The fact that Bielik is still in his teens and he is capable of this level should inspire much confidence. 

Could this mean that he can make the step up this season? Probably not. He has much competition for a role in the heart of the back, with Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Chambers and Holding ahead of him in the pecking order. Once again, the Capital One Cup represents his best option this coming season. His season for the youth team has done him no harm though, it appears, so another term for the reserves may just elevate him still.

If his appetite for football exceeds this level though, then a loan spell for a Championship side – or even a Premier League team – beckons. There would be no end of takers for such promise, and his development may just require a keener test than he faced last season.

Either way, Bielik is a testament to the good work the coaches are doing for our kids. His advancement is proof that what is taking place on the training fields is working, and Bielik is reaping the rewards. 

He may yet have to show patience, but his time may yet be coming. The answer to Arsenal’s defence in the next few years may comprise of three parts – with Chambers, Holding and Bielik all impressing when given the chance. 

Thank you to Stuart Macfarlane for the image.
It is good news for Bielik. His path may yet be long, but the distance he has to cover to reach his goal is far shorter than it was when he joined. 

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?