The 23-year-old Polish international suffered a season of inconsistent form and fitness struggles – perhaps linked in some way – which saw the Gunners’ number 1 dropped to the bench by manager Arsene Wenger.
“Obviously I had mixed feelings about my form last season, I had my ups and downs,” he told the club’s official website.
“It wasn’t nice – you want to be playing every week. But then again, the most important thing is the team and that is what the team needed.”
“I worked on my fitness and sharpness and came in much earlier every day to work in the gym with the fitness coaches and the physios. There was a lot of stuff to be done – I realized I wasn’t in the best shape, but it all worked out pretty well,” he added.
It was arguably his most testing season in an Arsenal shirt – his struggled with form and fitness were compounded by comments his father made criticizing the Arsenal manager for his son’s fall from grace at the Emirates.
The youngster (by goalkeepers standards) has been at the club since 2006 when he arrived from Legia Warsaw at the tender age of 16 – he made his breakthrough to the first-team in 2010/11 amidst concerns over the form of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabiabski, neither of whom had the boss’ full faith and trust any more.
Calamitous errors and mistakes from both saw the youngster come to the fore and make his mark on the team that term and the following season he was the undisputed number one.
However, last season Szczesny seemed to struggle – some thing he admits himself – initially with injury and subsequently with confidence. His father had criticized Wenger for playing his son whilst he was still carrying an injury and perhaps there is some truth in that.
He was dropped last term for Arsenal’s Champions League trip to the Allianz Arena where they, ultimately, beat Bayern Munich 2-0 on their European champions’ own turf – with Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks.
The elder Pole kept his place following the victory for a few games but Szczesny soon regained his place in the team in and this season he has started every game so far.
Opening day defeat at the Emirates to Aston Villa saw Szczesny make some errors and, along with his defence, some bizarre decisions. This is a part of his game the boss will be hoping is gradually eradicated as he matures but that is not always the case – Szczesny studied under Jens Lehmann who also had his own eccentric tendencies and, at times, woeful decision making.
Arsenal look much stronger after their qualification for the Champions League – an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Feberbahce home and away – and with the arrival of Mesut Ozil they have the attacking ammunition to fight for the title and certainly strive for that elusive trophy. However, consistency and organization at the back as well as consistency in the personnel is a big factor to any successful campaign.
Wojceich Szczesny’s form, fitness and confidence is going to be fundamental to any success the Gunners achieve this season – the arrival of Emiliano Viviano on loan may either spur the Pole on to try harder or, as we saw last season, it could knock his confidence. Only time will tell.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald