One other night time, one other home-grown Arsenal prospect excels within the Champions League.
After Serge Gnabry lit up Anfield for Bayern Munich, Wojciech Szczesny stored his Juventus aspect clinging on to their place within the Champions League with a string of significant saves in a 2-Zero defeat at Atletico Madrid.
The Polish goalkeeper may do little in regards to the two late targets that ensured Atletico took a agency grasp of this spherical of 16 tie however he had little proper to avoid wasting Antoine Griezmann’s impudent lob within the 53rd minute.
An instinctive flick from Griezmann appeared to be destined for the online however Szczesny confirmed distinctive athleticism and bounce to flick the ball towards the crossbar.
It’s the form of save that has turn out to be frequent since Szczesny left Arsenal for Italy 4 years in the past, initially on mortgage to Roma earlier than completely becoming a member of Juventus in 2017 as the person recognized because the Bianconeri’s option to succeed the enduring Gianluigi Buffon.
The 28-year-old is now getting into his prime however he had already proven greater than flashes of his expertise when Petr Cech was recruited to interchange him as No.1. Certainly his wonderful type in Italy speaks to how Arsenal developed a worrying pattern for blooding kids who began exceptionally however whose careers stalled with out a weight of expectation on them.
Szczesny shouldn’t be alone. Take Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi – arguably two of the Arsenal gamers which have improved most below Unai Emery. Each regarded like the following large factor when Arsene Wenger gave them their large break within the first crew however confirmed little signal of increasing their repertoire of their second and third seasons within the crew.
There was little strain on kids – contained in the membership many will admit that below Wenger issues grew to become too comfy, that reaching the primary crew in itself was handled as a participant having made the grade reasonably than being the beginning of an even-longer journey to the highest.
Szczesny definitely appeared too settled and the die was forged for him on January 1 2015, when he was fined £20,000 by the membership for smoking within the altering room showers after a 2-Zero defeat to Southampton the place he had been accountable for each targets.
His off-the-field indiscretions could have been the deciding issue that satisfied Wenger he required a extra mature presence between the sticks – first David Ospina after which Cech – however the harsh actuality is Arsenal solely had themselves in charge for the truth that Szczesny’s particular person performances had fallen properly wanting the requirements he was able to reaching.
Wenger’s goalkeeping coach and long-term lieutenant, Gerry Payton, struggled to get by means of to Szczesny. There’s a story that he as soon as informed the Pole in a penalty briefing session earlier than a recreation towards Chelsea: “Whichever means you dive, Hazard will shoot the other means”. Hardly the form of directions to help a goalkeeper earlier than a decisive match.
As Szczesny mentioned in 2016: “I realized extra in 4 months below [then-Roma manager Luciano] Spalletti than in 10 years in England. He places a whole lot of significance on taking part in the ball to ft. At some point we educated for over 45 minutes simply on objective kicks.”
Failing to develop Szczesny is one mistake too many. To then get such a meagre return for a Poland worldwide – the person Juventus wished to succeed certainly one of world soccer’s all-time greats – solely added insult to damage.
Juventus dedicated to a mere £10.8million for Szczesny, who has performed each minute for them within the Champions League this season and began 18 of 24 Serie A matches, with an additional £2.7m in potential add-ons. Two years on from that deal, which it ought to be famous was for a participant who had that season stored probably the most clear sheets in Italy’s prime flight, and the going charge for a top-level goalkeeper is arguably in extra of £30m.
Arsenal rightly toasted a deal properly performed once they obtained Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen for £22.5m final summer season however that had come after the German’s worst season but. Szczesny, on the peak of his powers, netted them barely greater than half that determine and is arguably the higher of the 2 goalkeepers.
It’s a catalogue of errors which have introduced Arsenal to the place the place two of the best prospects that they’ve produced in recent times at the moment are proving their price in Europe for the form of golf equipment the Gunners aspire to compete with. They will solely hope that the off-field overhaul of the previous 12 months ensures this won’t be repeated.