Throughout the Club's history, Arsenal supporters have had the pleasure of cheering for some of the all-time great goalkeepers. Names like Kelsey, Wilson, Jennings and Seaman are burned into our memories as the gold standard for the position.
Despite some grumbling in recent years, when it came to protecting the back of the net, Arsenal were the second best team in the Premier League last season. We were one of two teams to concede an average of less than one goal per game and tied for second in the number of clean sheets.
And our goalkeepers achieved that by committee.
Now more than ever, a manager is just one injury or mistimed tackle away from turning to the bench and throwing his backup goalkeeper into the fire. And the simple fact is, most clubs will usually field at least two goalkeepers – and often three – over the course of a season.
We asked our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to analyze Arsenal's first team goalkeepers and give their verdict on the group as a whole.
It's a strong group, and stable enough that we should not be worrying about it. I firmly believe that we were strong enough despite Don Vito leaving and before the loan signing of Viviano. We have been building this defence together over the last three seasons and now we have a unity that has me quite excited for this season.
I have always rated Wojciech Szczesny highly. He's a solid shot stopper and a very strong communicator. Every season we see improvement across many areas of his game. This might be the first season where he is a true No. 1 for the Club, his age and inexperience still showed last season, and may show a little bit this season. His distribution continues to improve from dead balls to a point where I am quite comfortable with him in net. Szczesny's lowest moment as a communicator came in the Carling Cup Final loss to Birmingham, we all know the moment. Since then he has commanded the backline, they respond to him and work in unison with him. You can see the proof of this in the end of season run and the obvious statistic of goals given.
Every season we see improvement across many areas of Szczesny's game.Morgan Rubes
My worry with Szczesny is how he responds to the back passes in open play. This season we have see the Arsenal defence pass the ball back when hurried or under pressure. Szczesny has deliberately moved the ball to his right foot, even when under pressure; it shows a waning confidence in his left foot at a moment in a match where indecision is deadly. Gerry Peyton (the goalkeeper coach) has his work cut out for him to raise the number one's confidence in his weaker peg.
Lukasz Fabianski is a proficient shot stopper who will be frustrated by the lack of a regular starting spot. If Wojciech stays healthy we can expect him to start 38 Premier League matches and every Champions League fixture. Lukasz's communication is the weakest part of his game, but it is improving quickly. Last season we saw him work better with the defenders in front of him and he improved his ratio of matches to clean sheets. Should Szczesny get injured (knock on wood), we have a quality back-up, and the best back-up in the Premier League (I rate him higher than the aging trio of Schwarzer, Friedl, and Given).
Emiliano Viviano has proven to be a respectable keeper in the Italy, but the transition to the Premier League could be a challenge. The inherit challenge is not with the pace of the match, but with the language. His English appears decent, but being the lone Italian descendent puts him at a disadvantage compared to his Polish counterparts. First, the Poles have been there longer and speak better English; Viviano cannot shout in Italian at the backline. Second, with the Poles being at Arsenal longer, they have a bond with the players, an instinct. This instinct helps bridge a language barrier. If Monreal struggles with an English word or understanding Fabianski, they have a bond molded from months of training together. Viviano cannot rely on such an instinct with any of the Arsenal defenders which could put him alone as the last line of defence. I do not expect to see Viviano feature much, especially as Arsène Wenger is likely to deploy Emi Martinez in the Capital One Cup.
I want to leave you with a concept. Fans of football often put too much stock into the number of saves and penalty stops made by a keeper. It is a quantitative statistic that does show the full measure of how good a keeper is. It is important to look at the keeper in the whole of his playing. Is a keeper who coordinates his backline, thus preventing shots, not equally as a good as a keeper who doesn't but makes the saves? As a keeper I can tell you that my best matches are clean sheets where as a team we have prevented shooting opportunities, corners, and of course penalties. In the end we care about wins and clean sheets and I'm trying to stress that a keeper who communicates well with his backline is as (if not more) important than a keeper who is just a good shot stopper. The defence is a unit of two centre backs, two fullbacks and a keeper. The better they work together the more matches we get to say "One nil to the Arsenal!"
Szczesny is going to be number one at Arsenal for all the reasons Morgan points out, which basically boils down to the fact that he's the best option Arsenal have at the moment. No one has ever questioned Szczesny's reaction time and ability to make great saves but rather it's his ability to stay in a game mentally and claim the ball in the air where people, rightly, criticize.
I still find it incredible that in his 107th professional game for Arsenal Football Club, against Aston Villa, in the first game of the season, at home, Szczesny lost his mind. We
No one has ever questioned Szczesny's reaction time and ability to make great savesTim Bostelle
can talk about his save stats and his catches all day long but really there is no reason why a keeper with his experience should be playing with such reckless abandon that he nearly got himself sent off for a foolish tackle in the box.
A defense's confidence starts with the keeper, they have to trust that the keeper is going to be a steadying influence behind them and not someone who is going to lose his mind every five to 10 games like Szczesny seems to have a history doing. So, while I applaud Szczesny for working on his distribution, his reaction saves, and his high claims (he's 100 per cent so far this season) I think the one thing I'd like to see from him this year is to tame that wild instinct he seems to have.
I think Morgan makes an excellent point about how it is as important for a goalkeeper to be a good shot stopper but more importantly he has to be vocal and effectively organize the back line. This is something I am not worried about with our Polish Nos. 1 and 2. Szczesny is especially good at this although Fabianski proved to be equally as reliable during his stint as first choice keeper last season. I do not doubt the development in both keepers in the past couple of years and their familiarity with the current squad will be of considerable benefit to them.
In addition to the abilities of the goalkeepers I also think their management is quite important. Arsène showed last season that he was not afraid to drop Szczesny when he was going through a rough patch. I think it’s important
Fabianski proved to be equally as reliable during his stint as first choice keeper last season.Zara Bashir
for the manager to be bold when faced with situations like this. Top players should be able to understand his decision is based on what is best for the team at the time. At that moment, dropping Szczesny was absolutely the right one. It allowed for him to regroup and fight for position again and for Fabianski to showcase his abilities and prove himself.
Arsène has also realized the importance of having sufficient backup this summer in case the injury gods strike, especially with Vito Mannone leaving. Viviano was brought into the mix because the manager himself said that he was not sure about the abilities of the young Martinez who has yet to play his first Premier League match. The new Italian had 11 clean sheets in 32 matches for Florentina. Not too shabby for a third choice keeper.
I hope that our goalkeeping corps is managed well this season and look forward to healthy competition between the three goalkeepers.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Sep 2013