Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The SMR Arsenal Squad Review - The Goalkeepers

With the season over and a trophy in the cabinet, I’m going to assess the season for each member of the Arsenal squad and rate them. I’m sure there’ll be some disagreements about some of my ratings, so feel free to comment at the bottom with your thoughts. There’s only one place to start: the last line of defence.
1. Wojciech Szczesny
The Pole has had his best season in an Arsenal shirt, starting 37 of the 38 league games and sharing the golden glove award with Petr Cech for the most clean sheets in the Premier League. He’s been much more decisive coming out for crosses and his shot stopping has improved. Szczesny has made plenty of saves that have been crucial to Arsenal winning games, think Tottenham at home, Crystal Palace away and Cardiff away. The sign of a good goalkeeper is when they help win more points than the points their mistakes cost, and Szczesny has definitely helped win the Gunners a lot of points this season.
The downsides for him this season, like the rest of the team, are the thrashings away at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Those games badly skewed his record of goals conceded for the season, although the reality is that he was often left badly exposed in those matches. The red card against Bayern Munich was also disappointing, but I still think that was unlucky.
He’s a fans favourite and never lacks for confidence, but this season Szczesny has shown the consistency and quality to be Arsenal’s number one for many years and back up his self-belief. 24 is still very young for a goalkeeper, so it’s impressive for him to be playing so consistently under the pressure of playing every week for Arsenal.
Season Rating: 8 / 10
13. Emiliano Viviano
Given how Arsenal used four goalkeepers in 2012/2013 due to injuries and losses of form, the September deadline day signing of Emiliano Viviano was welcomed because it would have been a risk to go through the season with just two goalkeepers. Had Szczesny and Fabianski been unavailable at the same time, Viviano could have done well. Alas, we’ll never know. Even though he never played, I can’t bring myself to give him zero.
Season Rating: 1 / 10
21. Lukasz Fabianski
Even though he just made the one league appearance in a dead-rubber at Norwich, Arsenal fans will have fond memories of Lukasz Fabianski from this season. The lack of concern from fans when he was picked in the cup competitions was a sign of how much he’s no longer considered a liability. Had it not been for some exceptional performances from Wojciech Szczesny, Fabianski could easily have been the number one, and that wouldn’t have worried me.
His performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup was superb, he saved a penalty in Munich but his finest moment was undoubtedly the shoot-out heroics against Wigan. That match was most of the painful and stressful things I’ve ever experienced, but Fabianski stayed calm and relieved so much tension by saving the first two Wigan spot kicks. There was a glimpse of the old Fabianski when he came haring out at the end of extra time against Hull, but fortunately Sone Aluko missed from out wide so we can just about forgive the Pole for that one!
It’s a shame that he’s set to leave as he’s the best back-up goalkeeper in the Premier League. However on that basis, it’s very difficult to begrudge him a move as he deserves to be playing first team football. Arsenal will find it difficult to find a reserve goalkeeper that is as reliable though.
Season Rating: 7 / 10
Coming later in the week – The Defenders
Listen to the Sam’s Match Reports podcast end-of-season awards special!
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3