Our Rock

There will be no shortage of inquests and post-mortems in the weeks to come about this Arsenal season...and rightfully so at that. Given United's dip in form (and of course I miss one of our best performances of the season when trapped in a location with no FSC), I don't think any Gooner can be faulted for wondering what could have been. That said, I am increasingly certain that for all of the things that we do need, there is one thing that we emphatically do not.

We do not need a new No. 1 goalkeeper.

Back in August of last year, I thought this kid had a shot. At the time, I would still have preferred a Hugo Lloris or an Igor Akinfeev...money be damned. But, I saw this video from his time at Brentford, and saw many positive signs as far as his development and his potential.

This is what I posted on the Arseblog Forums that day (I'd link, but it's a private forum):

Liked what I saw from the youtube. Good instincts, catches damn near everything (and if not, it's away and out of danger), great reflexes, awesome recovery time after a save (perhaps Almunia's most glaring weakness), and he doesn't seem afraid to get stuck in on those crosses.

Of course, a video of every goal he conceded may be just as instructive. Also, let's keep in mind that these were third-tier strikers we were watching...the only thing more woeful than some of the finishing was Brentford's defense.

So, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to pull a Monday-morning Nostradamus act. All I'm saying is at the time, I thought this kid had something about him...a spark that our other young keepers didn't have.

Still, if I could go back in time and change one thing that I said, it would have been discounting his performance even slightly due to the level he was playing at. In fact, the fact that Brentford's defense often evaporated in front of him only strengthens the case that video was making. I have a theory that the difference between a first-tier and third-tier player isn't necessarily what they do when they have time and space with the ball - it's more in whether they can get that time and space. If someone is in alone or in a good shooting position with no defender in the same postal code, a great save is a great save...whether it's in the Emirates or at Gigg Lane.

Now with his graduation to the senior side, I have seen nothing that has changed my mind. This kid is something special, end of.

First off, do not forget his pedigree. His father was a brilliant goalkeeper for Legia back in the day, and he clearly passed on his determination and attitude to his son. Whereas the father punched out Roberto Mancini in a Champions League game (no, really), the son looks to channel that even more effectively. That is a large part of his appeal to me, even beyond the great saves and the air of confidence he brings to the team. Remember his reaction when we beat Barcelona at home? This is a kid who cares and who gives everything regardless of the situation.

This is not a kid who will wilt like Manuel Almunia when the spotlight is on him. In fact, he revels in it. He seems to live for it.

Further, this is a kid who believes that Arsenal can win things. I may not agree with him in his most recent statements about Arsene Wenger, but I love him for saying them. He's got the kind of fighting spirit that more on this club should have, and he already has given us some stability in big matches (Birmingham aside, which I still maintain was much more on Laurent Koscielny than anything else) that we haven't had since Jens Lehmann was in his pomp.

His technical ability is right up there as well. No, he may not yet be a Lloris or an Akinfeev, but he's not miles away and has youth and time on his side. Goalkeepers don't peak until their thirties...Szezcsny is just 21. Already, he plays his angles well and has a freakishly-good sense for when to come off his line. Unlike any other goalkeeper at the club, he is proficient in keeping himself big and making shooters beat him on a one-on-one (note how often Almunia half-heartedly comes out and inadvertently gives the shooter all the space in the world to score - note how often Almunia or Fabianski concedes there as opposed to Szezcsny). His reflexes are borderline ridiculous, and he seems to communicate well with the defense.

His distribution and perhaps his maturity may not be all there yet, but as I mentioned, there's time.

So, please, keep your Pepe Reinas or your Hugo Llorises. We've got a guy who is going to be that good if not better some day, and he's already close. Oh, and we haven't spent a dime other than wages for him. With all of the other needs that this club has, buying a goalkeeper at this moment in time is like giving a legless man a bionic arm.