Wojciech Szczesny is one of the most interesting characters at Arsenal. The Pole in goal certainly does not lack confidence; some might even say he is too cocky for his own good. Remember the Bob Wilson/Szczesny quote? Bob Wilson: “The loan to Brentford will be good for you Wojciech?”. To which the Pole responded: “No Bob….. I will be good for them.”
However, for a 22 year old he is also very level-headed and he interviews very well. When he was interviewed after his heroic performance against Liverpool last season – especially the Dirk Kuijt double penalty save – he really impressed me with his excellent English, professionalism, calmness, and of course, his uber-confidence.
We all know that on the day, Wojciech can be brilliant, but this season, for the first time in his young career, things are not going great for him. Most of us prefer a cocky, very confident goalkeeper to a more subdued, humble one. Good goal keeping is in the end not just a matter of technical skills; having a strong, dominant personality is also very important.
But it is harder to warm to such a person if and when things are not going so well. Suddenly the arrogance, which seems to go hand in hand with very strong levels of self believe, becomes less attractive.
When Szczesny let in the Aston Villa equaliser at the weekend, I noticed him just looking ahead with no sign of disappointment in himself. It really annoyed me. I would have liked to shake him at the arm and say: wake up Wojciech, you let our team down again, and it is not good enough: own up to your mistake!
The difference with Joe Hart, who also made a mistake this weekend which led to him conceding a penalty, was very big. Hart looked disappointed with himself and showed regret for what he potentially had done to the team. When he subsequently saved the penalty, there was real relief and an outburst of pure joy. I prefer human beings, including goal keepers, to be like that.
But with Szczesny we get mostly one and the same emotion: he always wants to look in control and ooze confidence. Sometimes, this really works; especially in games in which he is under a lot of pressure, like the recent game against Sunderland, or the mentioned earlier game against Liverpool last season. But in games in which he has very little to do, he has been, at least recently, prone to making costly errors.
In all three recent games against Blackburn, Bayern and Villa he could have done a lot better with the goals we conceded. Of course, preventing goals is a team job and all conceded goals have usually more than one guilty party, but Wojciech played a significant part in them all.
To make progress in life, work and sport, moments of self-reflection are very important. Very self-confident people tend not to do this much, if at all. Yet, a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility is sometimes required in order to learn and improve; to progress to the next stage or phase in life or work. And most important of all is to learn from mistakes.
Another Gunner who has no lack of confidence, and who truly believes he is the best of us all, is the almost forgotten, and no doubt forlorn, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. Nicklas totally lacks humility and the ability to allow some healthy self-doubt into his head. The Dane is an ok striker and with hard work and a strong motivation he could even become a good one. We should not have had to buy Giroud this summer; Bendtner should have worked himself into the first team by now. But his cockiness prevented him from listening to Arsene’s advice and give everything to force himself into the team.
Instead, he jumped at the opportunity offered by Juventus to come and join them on loan. He has made a meagre nine appearances for Juventus, and probably most of them as a (late) substitute. For many years, he has been saying that once he reaches the age of 24/25 he will be the best striker in Europe, but as he turned 25 last month, we can say now that this is clearly not going to happen.
I feel that Bendtner’s uber-confidence and arrogance is holding him strongly back from becoming a proper, settled striker who makes the best of his footballing career. And what a great shame it is.
Szczesny seems to be more level-headed and professional than Bendtner and I hope he will use this season as an opportunity to learn from his mistakes, and reflect on how he can develop further and become the all-round, quality goalkeeper that we desperately need at Arsenal.
The next few months might become the most important of his career to date.
Written by: Total Arsenal.