Arsenal have an FA Cup final to look forward to – and the opportunity to scratch that embarrassing nine-year itch – as well as another entry into the play-offs for the next Champions League, but Wojciech Szczesny does not believe the season can be judged a success.
The Arsenal goalkeeper, who does not yet know whether he or Cup regular Lukasz Fabianski will start against Hull City at Wembley a week on Saturday, kept his 16th clean sheet in this Premier League campaign against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday to wrap up a weekend when the club confirmed their fourth place, one secured with a degree of comfort after Everton’s challenge faded.
“With two games to go we had nothing to play for at home and I think we shouldn’t really be in that position,” said Szczesny. “We should be fighting for the title.
“I believe that we should be in a position to challenge to win the Premier League. I never considered fourth place before the start of the season as a successful season and a good position. I play for Arsenal Football Club because I want to win the title every year.
“Obviously at some point, when you lose games and you lose the chance to fight for the title, then the new challenge is to secure the Champions League spot, but I wouldn’t have taken it before the season.”
Arsenal sat on top of the Premier League from September to the start of February apart from one hiccup in mid-December but catastrophic defeats at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea ruined their prospects of remaining there. The contrast with their home defensive form is acute – 11 goals conceded in 19 games is the meanest (equal with Chelsea) of any team in the top flight. Away from home 13 Premier League clubs have tighter defences than Arsenal’s, who finish their campaign at Norwich on Sunday.
“At home our defensive record has been fantastic and we’ve managed to keep it going throughout the season,” said Szczesny. “Hopefully that’s something that we can take into the next few seasons. Hopefully we can improve our away defensive record because that hasn’t been very good.
“We dropped some important points and lost games and had to finish fourth when we weren’t probably the favourites to finish fourth. At least we managed to do that for our fans and hopefully we’ll manage to get the FA Cup for them.”
Fabianski has been Arsène Wenger’s choice throughout what has been a demanding FA Cup run, playing against Tottenham Hotspur, Coventry City, Liverpool, Everton and then Wigan Athletic in the semi-final where the Pole saved two penalties in the shootout success that earned Arsenal a return to Wembley.
“I speak with Lukasz but I haven’t spoken to the boss about it,” said Szczesny. “We’re both professional and we would both love to play in the Cup final. It’s the boss’s decision to make, not an easy one, because there is a No 1 at the club and a goalkeeper who is the reason we are in the FA Cup final. I think Lukasz has done so well that he deserves to play, but having said that I’m a professional and I would love to play in the Cup final.”
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