Or number 13 if you must!
Good morning gooners! It’s our first post on this site (in case you haven’t noticed), it’s been a week since our last post on the old site and we are delighted to have finally moved here.
We secured the much coveted 3rd place and a Champions League spot on the last day of the season following what was very much a rollercoaster season. An atrociosly poor start was followed by a slight upturn in results but not in a convincing fashion.
I could not do a proper season review because we were too busy planning the move here. But we owe it to you guys to do something similar; hence this post on a man seen as one of our top performers last season, Wojciech Szczesny.
Sz13 had an interesting season. Many are quick to praise him, I’m not left out and often deservedly so. He has had some unbelievable goal-keeping performances that belied his age, the wins in Udinese and Liverpool being the prime examples.
It however seems as though years of witnessing Almunia and Fabianski drop clanger after clanger have set very low standards for us. So low we are willing to accept anyone who gives us a commanding presence between the posts. (see also: Vito Mannone after Fulham).
Unlike Almunia or Fabianski, Sz13 oozes confidence, a good trait for a goalkeeper, and any human being for that matter. He also comes across as someone loyal to the club, a true gunner, something that has endeared him to the hearts of the fans, so much that we are willing to overlook his flaws (see also: Vermaelen).
A look at the stats show that at 64%, his save percentage was the 17th best in a league of 20 teams. Shabby if you ask me. He also made 4 errors that led to goals.
He is without doubt our safest pair of hands, and I am only hopeful he retains that position for years to come, but his recent performances leave a lot to be desired. Maybe the knowledge that Wenger does not trust the other goalies has made him complacent.
Then there is the talk of a shoulder injury he suffered close to the end of last season. It is very convenient to attribute his drop in form to either of these or even both.
His figures are even more worrying when put side by side with those of goalkeepers in teams we are required to compete with. The table below shows how our number 1 compares with Man City’s Joe Hart.
It’s evident Hart made more saves and committed less errors, Sz13 was however more dominant in the box. This can be attributed to the fact that, given our problems with defending set pieces, he has more responsibility; unlike City who have no such issues and can rely Lescott and Kompany to deal with crosses into the box.
I saw @Orbinho’s tweet a few weeks ago, one in which he claims we had conceded only 27% of our goals through set pieces, a huge improvement on the 54% we conceded two seasons ago. So Sz13′s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
For shots to save ratio, Joe Hart and David De Gea were the best two in the league, little surpise they man the posts for the two best teams in the land. Szczesny still has a long way to go on this front, and considering how defensively weak we can be, it is safe to assume he will face more shots next season. He definitely needs to work on it if we are to challenge next season.
Last season was his first full season and he kept 19 clean sheets in 49 games, equivalent to 38.77% clean sheet rate. Meanwhile Almunia kept 70 clean sheets in 175 appearances for Arsenal, a clean sheet in 40% of his games.
Comparing both, it has to be said that Sz13 has to raise his game to match Almunia’s stat, same one we criticised the Spaniard for. Ironic isn’t it?
So, is Sz13 overrated? I would still argue to the contrary. Moreover, he is just starting his career, while Almunia is finishing his. But he needs to be competing with the world’s best, not with a spanish waiter in the twilight years of his career. Is he world class? Not yet. But in a couple of years definitely.
As much as I try to avoid it, the conclusion from this is that the difference between third and first place is the less defensive errors and a lower number of shots on goal saved by our respective goalkeepers.
Seeing as the club has released Almunia, and with Fabianksi also looking to be on his way out, we are left with Sz13, Mannone and Martinez. We cannot possibly leave it to those 3 to carry us through next season, can we? We will be just one injury away from a major crisis.
If you were Wenger, who would you go for? An experienced head, satisfied with being a back up to Sz13, ready to step in occassionally? Or another young talented goalkeeper to compete with Sz13 for the number 1 position? Or would you just put faith in those 3 and hope to the gods that Sz13 does not get injured?
Share your thoughts in the comments.