Arsenal's young goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has had to wait to get his chance as Arsène Wenger's first choice but there was a time when it looked like his career might have been ended by a gruesome training accident that left him with two broken forearms.
The Pole, 20, was a surprise choice to start against Manchester United on Monday and did well enough in a 1-0 defeat – his Premier League debut – that he is favourite to play again today against Stoke. He has come a long way from the day two years ago when he dropped a weight on himself at the gym at London Colney which caused him such serious injuries that there was a fear he would never play again.
Szczesny, who signed a new five-year deal last month, was lifting free weights when the bench press bar slipped and fell on his arms. Wenger said yesterday that he feared for the future of the player signed from Legia Warsaw as a 17-year-old. He said: "The bar fell on his hands, on both arms and crushed his forearms. He was out for six months or seven months. So he has gone through some difficult times and he has come through that."
Like Lukasz Fabianski, who Wenger said is still not completely fit, Szczesny is a product of the Legia Warsaw academy. His father Maciej was a Poland international and Wojciech has also played for the senior Poland team. The younger Szczesny and Fabianski were mentored by the same goalkeeping coach at Legia. Szczesny has not been slow to make his case for a first-team place, announcing last month that he would not sign a new deal if he did not think he would play.
The proposed signing of Mark Schwarzer from Fulham was subsequently abandoned and Szczesny has a chance to solve the goalkeeping issue that has never truly been resolved since Jens Lehmann lost his place to Manuel Almunia in the 2007-2008 season.
Wenger said: "You know that in our job it is vital [to be confident] because you have to be convinced that you're made to turn up in front of 60,000 people and produce. For me he has that. It's not easy to start your career at Manchester United in such a big game, without being shaky. I believe he has the presence and the personality.
"He got some criticism, which was surprising to me because I think he has shown basic things. First of all personality and presence. His kicking was questionable but I put that down to nerves. He made a crucial save from Anderson and you cannot fault him on the goal. On one or two saves he did very well. So overall for me his debut was very positive."