Wenger lauds Szczesny improvements, but does he compare to Cech, Mignolet, Boruc?

Arsenal manager hailed his goalkeeper but is the shot-stopper in pole position or does he pale in comparison to Chelsea, Liverpool and Southampton stars?

When it comes to goalkeeping, there may well only be one statistic that matters - concessions, how many one makes and how often one makes them. However, there are attributes - physical, technical and mental - that can have an affect… command of area, aerial ability, agility, even communication and concentration.

For Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, Gunners glovesman Wojciech Szczesny, 23, has - like Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere - improved markedly in the past calendar year, with the Frenchman citing, in particular, the Poland international's maturity, decision-making and intelligence: 'he's one of the top five goalkeepers in the Premier League,' he is quoted to have said on the club's official website.

How does Szczesny compare other 'keepers on a hot-streak this season, such as Chelsea goalie Petr Cech, Liverpool's summer recruit Simon Mignolet and Southampton shot-stopper Artur Boruc?

Below is a table highlighting the most basic way to scrutinise a goalkeeper - how often does the athlete concede a goal; with the higher statistic obviously being the best and one currently enjoyed by Boruc who only concedes once every 131 minutes on average. Szczesny, though, betters both Cech and Mignolet - two goalkeepers who, at 31 and 25, have more Premier League experience than Wojciech (admittedly, Mignolet narrowly so).

Petr Cech Chelsea 99.00
Artur Boruc Southampton 131.80
Wojciech Szczesny Arsenal 104.21
Simon Mignolet Liverpool 70.71

Embellishing his point, Wenger continued: 'Certainly a part of [Szczesny's] improvement is mental because he's more mature. His decision-making is cleaner, sharper, quicker. He was always a very talented boy but because he's intelligent he learns quickly from experience.

'I'm happy that I always gave him the confidence because he's developing very well into a very strong goalkeeper and today certainly nobody would question that he's one of the top five goalkeepers in the Premier League.'

When analysing other factors, Szczesny also stands out. Minutes per concession can come down to incidents played out by those ahead of the goalkeeper, like defenders nullifying opposition chances, however, when it comes to the last line of defence, it is imperative there are safe hands guarding the goal-line.

Out of the four goalkeepers used in the table above, only Mignolet - who interestingly conceded most often (perhaps with statistics somewhat skewed of late due to five concessions in his past two games) - is superior to Szczesny when it comes to minutes per save, however, the difference between them is marginal. Cech, meanwhile, only makes a save once every 42 minutes - roughly two per match.

Szczesny is far more proficient in coming off his line, winning the ball and reclaiming or retrieving possession for his team, with his minutes per successful 'sweep' coming in at one every 73 minutes compared to Boruc on once per 101 minutes and Mignolet every 330 minutes - or well over seven halves of football.

The Arsenal man, though, still needs to up his mental game and confidence when it comes to commanding his area, claiming crosses and limiting the impact of his errors as he fails to collect a cross more frequently than his peers in this case and commits an error that directly leads to a shot (although this only happens once in 11 matches - or twice in the Premier League season to date), compared to Boruc's flawlessness in these areas.

PlayerClubMins/ SavesMins/ SweepMins/ Cross Not ClaimedMins/ ErrorClean SheetAppsMins
Petr Cech Chelsea 42.13 282.86 1,980.00 0 8 22 1,980
Artur Boruc Southampton 35.62 101.38 0 0 7 15 1,318
Wojciech Szczesny Arsenal 29.55 73.33 396.00 990.00 10 22 1,980
Simon Mignolet Liverpool 29.12 330.00 495.00 1,980.00 6 22 1,980

Szczesny, of course, has the most clean sheets - 10.

Wenger has more: 'That defensive solidity of course is the basic work you have to do to be efficient at home. Maybe what is even more important is to have that solidarity at home because it gives you time to fatigue your opponent, time to stretch them, time to dominate them and get the game completely in their own half. The longer that lasts the more you have chances to score.'

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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