“I realise there is a big chance in front of me and I might not give this No 1 shirt away to anyone else for the next ten to 15 years.”
The words of Polish International goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as he spoke to Arsenal.com about his hopes of becoming the club's first-choice goalkeeper starting from next season.
After a very successful loan stint with Brentford, Szczesny saw a string of injuries within the Arsenal goalkeeping circles give him the chance between the posts. Injuries to Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, and Vito Mannone who was on loan with Hull, saw Szczesny promoted to first choice 'keeper with veteran Jens Lehmann brought out of retirement to sit on the bench in case of emergency.
With Gael Clichy leaving the Gunners for Manchester City, Arsenal fans are now calling for another left back to be brought in, as well as a centre back and defensive midfield player. However, unlike a year ago, calls for a new goalkeeper are few and far between. While some of the faithful would like a more experienced 'keeper brought in, many respect that the Pole has looked far more commanding between the posts than his predecessors and can see why Arsene Wenger looks likely to give Szczesny a chance to prove himself during the upcoming season.
Sure, there was that costly mistake that cost Arsenal the Carling Cup (was it Szczesny's fault or Laurent Koscielny's fault? Both?), but it is of real testement to the young man that he did not let it effect him for the remainder of the season. Instead of shrivelling into the background, he came back as determined as ever.
Many say he is too young to be number one for a club as big as Arsenal, but did Real Madrid have the same problem with putting a then 18-year-old Iker Casillas between the posts? Or did CSKA Moscow worry about making a 17-year-old by the name of Igor Akinfeev their number one choice? Indeed, Arsenal fans need to just look at the money spent by bitter rivals Manchester United on 20-year-old David de Gea who is taking over between the posts from Edwin van der Saar.
The term "if you're good enough, you're old enough" is very apt in these cases, and so too that of Wojciech Szczesny. And unlike their bitter rivals, Arsenal only spent pittance on who they hope will be their long-term number one.