The Mail single out Arsenal's 'Weak Link' - Unfair or justified?

Szczesny Training

Is Wojciech Szczesny really Arsenal's weak link?

Every team has a 'liability', write The Mail, looking at Manchester City's Martin Demichelis as a prime example.

In an attempt to identify the weak link of every single Premier League team - Tom Cleverley at United another instance - they perhaps find themselves stretching when it comes to Arsenal, a team who have quality throughout their ranks.

It wasn't always like that. In previous years players like Manuel Almunia, or calamitous central defenders like Sebastian Squillaci, Pascal Cygan or Mikael Silvestre have held them back, but this time it's Wojciech Szczesny who gets singled out for criticism:

"We cannot dispute his much-improved form, but the Pole nonetheless remains a worry for followers of Arsenal. At 23 he is yet to outgrow some of the immaturities which have plagued recent seasons and is still prone to an adolescent lapse. There is a little way to go before fans rest easy in those plush Emirates seats."

However, is the criticism justified or fair? 

Szczesny last season was dropped for underwhelming form to provide him with a 'mental break', but there were not big calamaties made in the style of the aforementioned Almunia which contributed to his downfall. This season he is much improved, and it's fair to argue last season was the blip and this campaign is a more accurate reflection of his talent.

The statistics for the Premier League 2013/14 season certainly back the goalkeeper up, and make the criticism of him seem vastly unfair. Here is a statistical table illustrating key performances indicators of the top 10 'keepers in the division:

PlayerTeamPosClean SheetError Lead To GoalAccurate Goal KicksSaved Outside boxSaved Inside boxAppsMins
Wojciech Szczesny Arsenal GK 11 1 129 46 26 24 2,160
Petr Cech Chelsea GK 10 2 97 15 35 24 2,160
Tim Howard Everton GK 9 1 111 29 34 23 2,003
Hugo Lloris Spurs GK 9 3 84 24 42 23 2,070
Artur Boruc Southampton GK 8 3 62 16 27 17 1,498
Jussi Jääskeläinen West Ham GK 8 1 74 20 43 18 1,620
John Ruddy Norwich GK 8 3 85 31 48 24 2,160
Tim Krul Newcastle GK 7 2 94 26 44 24 2,160
Vito Mannone Sunderland GK 7 0 85 41 25 15 1,307
Simon Mignolet Liverpool GK 7 4 117 40 32 24 2,160

Szczesny somewhat impressively stands tall at the top of the table, with more league clean sheets than any of his peers. Critics could argue it is Arsenal's impressive backline which deserves the credit for that, but to absolve him of any meaningful contribution would be unfair.

Szczesny has only cost his team one goal from an individual error, which is less than Petr Cech (2) and North London rival Hugo Lloris (3).

The Arsenal stopper also records more accurate goal kicks than any other of his contemporaries, and makes more saves from outside the box.

It's hard to argue a case based on the evidence that he is indeed Arsenal's weak link. If you had to single a player out, you'd be best looking in the direction of Nicklas Bendtne - but even he is looking improved nowadays...

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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