x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sociable Szczesny is not shy of telling Arsenal he is ready

The confident Pole is looking for an extended run in goal for the Gunners.

Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a string of fine saves on his Arsenal debut against Manchester United.
Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a string of fine saves on his Arsenal debut against Manchester United.

LONDON // Wojciech Szczesny is very much part of the new wave of footballers who are part of the Facebook and Twitter generation.

So Szczesny did not take long to offer some of his thoughts and post a few pictures on the social-networking sites he is a member of following his unexpected Premier League debut at Manchester United last Monday night.

Of course it is very easy to paint airbrushed images on such sites. There was, though, a hint that while Szczesny is known to be supremely confident - even a touch arrogant - the 20-year-old Pole also seems to have a self-effacing nature.

When reflecting on his performance in Arsenal's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, he told his Twitter followers: "Tomorrow I will learn to kick the ball beyond the half way line -apologies for my distribution and the result at Old Trafford."

By the very nature of their lonely job, keepers have to be supremely single-minded, which is why a hint of arrogance is no bad thing. But in a role where the margins between hero and zero are so fine, the ability to be self-analytical can be a help.

Szczesny's kicking from his goal area was indeed substandard in Manchester. But other than that, he cut a composed figure. He pulled off some impressive saves but, most importantly, commanded the box.

He could not do anything about Ji-Sung Park's headed winner but surely did enough to keep his place in the side for today's home game with Stoke City.

One man not surprised by Szczesny's promising start was Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager.

"I have always believed we have quality keepers at this club and Wojciech came in and did a very good job," the Frenchman said.

"But I also have a lot of confidence in Lukasz Fabianksi and also Vito Mannone who has done well on loan at Hull. I think we have a good competition between the keepers."

It is difficult to make too grand an assessment about Szczesny on the evidence of the United game, but he would seem to have plenty of talent and appears more mature than his age suggests.

That will have much to do with the fact he first arrived in England aged 15 when the coaching staff at Legia Warsaw realised they had a major talent on their hands and let him go to Arsenal.

Last year, he spent the second half of the season at the League One side Brentford and proved he could cut it amongst men with a string of impressive displays.

It may well be that Wenger could still look to bring in a more experienced goalkeeper during the transfer window next month. But it was clever psychology to give Szczesny his debut in such a high-profile match when he would not have had time to be nervous. Not that Szczesny had any doubts about his own ability.

Earlier this year he threatened to leave in January with his contract expiring in the summer. His reward was to get a new, five-year deal and now the chance to claim a regular place in the first XI.

At the time Szczesny insisted: "I am ready to play at a high level and need a club which won't be afraid to rely on a 20-year-old goalkeeper. I know Arsenal are fighting for trophies but if you want to win anything you must play your best players - not the oldest ones."

The brinkmanship has worked. Now Szczesny must back up the bold words of this prediction to make sure he does not fall flat.

sports@thenational.ae

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