How Wojciech Szczesny proved me wrong


It’s time to come clean. I’ve assessed the footage closely on Facebook - more closely than I should - and although it wasn’t calamitous I do have reservations about Wojciech Szczesny’s rapping skills.

Mind you when it comes to his day job, I’ll happily confess the Pole has won me over. 

Last season I was a cast-iron Szczesny sceptic. It’s strange; I’m usually a glass-half-full type of bloke on Arsenal-related matters, yet where the six foot five inch goalkeeper was concerned, I suspect I’d winced at too many hot-headed decisions, too many soft goals, and too many points needlessly squandered, to keep the faith. 

He wasn’t terrible, but I felt the Gunners deserved better. 

Longing for a world class custodian to rock up at Emirates Stadium, I know what I would have done last summer. I’d have had shelled out a truckload of cash on Asmir Begovic, Julio Cesar, Pepe Reina, or Iker Casillas - and quite possibly sold Szczesny to boot. 

Ever the loyalist, Arsene Wenger decided against that course of action, and thank goodness he did. Restored to the starting XI, Arsenal’s number one has been magnificent so far this term. 

It’s foolish to write off talented young goalkeepers at the first sign of trouble, and I should have known that. Special or not, they will all make mistakes, bad mistakes, even appalling mistakes. It’s part of their Rites of Passage. 

Then, providing they have the ability and the temperament to come through those challenges, you’re often left with a player whose well worth persisting with. 

I remember John Ruddy being snapped up by Everton at the age of 18 from my local club Cambridge United and wondering if it was the right move for him. Joe Hart left Shrewsbury Town for Manchester City at 19, while a teenage Ben Foster was snared by Stoke City as a hot prospect after impressing for non-league Racing Club Warwick. 

Hotly tipped, none got their chance right away. All went through the ringer at one point, enduring criticism aplenty. Yet each at their own pace, they learned from those early bumps in the road to become top quality Premier League keepers.

Last season was just Szczesny’s turn to muck his way through a mess. 

A full international at 19, the Pole has already clocked up over 150 appearances for club and country, enjoying first choice status at Arsenal for the majority of the last two and a half years. He’s still only 23. 

The improvement that’s left in his game, from a mental and technical perspective is frightening. 

Coming from the same school of self-confidence as Nicklas Bendtner – if not in the same top set – Szczesny has since confessed he took his eye off the ball, his place for granted, and that the shock of being dropped for the Gunners’ Champions League expedition to Bayern Munich in March, instantly woke him from an accidental stupor. 

Wenger’s brave call, however upsetting, was the jolt he needed. 

Szczesny now practices his trade harder than ever before, and it’s no coincidence he’s once again first pick for club and country. Far more passionate than most about the team he plays for, I’m also now convinced the Polish star is a keeper for keeps. A new long-term contract will shortly be forthcoming. 

I’m sorry that I doubted the lad. 

On Saturday against Liverpool he’ll be under the microscope again, but I’m not concerned. There’s been such a positive change in him this season that I’ve got faith the Gunners keeper is good enough to stand tall and repel the ‘SAS’ threat. 

Szczesny has made some outstanding stops already this season. Now all he has to do is stop the in-car video rapping too. 

Bet now on Arsenal to win the Premier League

Read more from ex-Arsenal midfielder Adrian Clarke