Behind Aaron Ramsey, there is another story of maturing, growth and improvement at Arsenal this season. Wojciech Szczesny has been excellent, playing the best football of his career, reacting perfectly to being dropped by Arsène Wenger last season.
Szczesny is back in the Poland team too, starting against England at Wembley on Tuesday, and Wenger spoke in detail yesterday about how his goalkeeper has responded to his personal disaster at Euro 2012.
“I think he questioned himself especially after the European Championship in Poland where it was a massive disappointment for him and I think it affected his belief,” said Wenger, referring to Szczesny’s red card against Greece in the opening game, after which he did not get back into the team. “He matured through disappointments like we all do. I believe every big player has to go through that in his career.”
Setbacks like that can be crossroads in careers but Wenger believes that Szczesny’s eventual response – to Euro 2012, and to being dropped – has been positive. “What may decide his career is how he comes out of that and I believe he came out for me in the way I wanted, it took him a while but he came back stronger. I took him out of the team last year and when he came back in the team since he has been consistent.”
Wenger dropped Szczesny in March, after the 2-1 derby defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, but saw it as part of a necessary learning process. “When you’re young you always think that life is easier than it really is. You discover by maturing that it demands at that level a daily attitude that is top level.”
Other great Arsenal goalkeepers have been dropped and forced their way back into Wenger’s thinking. “I gave him [Jens] Lehmann as an example. When I dropped Lehmann he told me ‘I will force you to play me again’. Wojciech didn’t say the same, but his dad did not accept the decision. That wasn’t a surprise.”
Although Arsenal were linked with new goalkeepers this summer, Wenger insisted his faith was always with Szczesny. “People forget that at 23 years old he is like being 18 for an outfield player. At 23 years old he had played two Premier League seasons, one where we finished third and last year where we made 73 points and finished fourth. You would think he can only go up.”
Szczesny was not the only player dropped in March, as Wenger tried to rescue Arsenal’s season. Thomas Vermaelen was axed too, Wenger preferring Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker at centre-back. Unlike Szczesny, Vermaelen has yet to make himself first-choice again.
Wenger, though, still has faith in his club captain: “I don’t worry for Vermaelen because he is a very strong guy but at the moment he doesn’t play, although that can change quickly. He is a top guy with fantastic attitude.”
Santi Cazorla is back for today’s game at home to Norwich while Mesut Özil should overcome a knee injury.Reuse content