Recent speculation that Wojech Szczesny had agreed a new contract with Arsenal was finally confirmed at the weekend when the club announced the Polish number 1 had signed a new long term contract.
Whilst it is brilliant news that we have secured the future of one of Europe’s best young goalkeepers – he is still just 23 – it has made me wonder what it means for the rest of the keepers at the club.
With him being still so young himself, the club are unlikely to have given him such lucrative terms (reported 5 years at £100k per week) if they do not have faith in him. It means they do not expect any of the other current senior keepers at the club to challenge him for number 1, and they do not expect many of the youth keepers to become anymore then back up.
Lukasz Fabianski is likely to leave Arsenal at the end of the season. His contract is due expire and, with him being 29 by the time the season is out, he has a decision to make. Either sign a new contract at Arsenal and remain as a number 2 for the rest of his career, ensuring he never plays for Poland again, or leave now, resurrect his career elsewhere, and challenge Szczesny for the number 1 jersey for his country. At 29 he will still have a lot to give. He will probably make the decision to leave Arsenal.
The signing of Emiliano Viviano was always an odd one. A decent goal keeper. A journeyman Italian, he began forcing his way into reckoning for next years World Cup after a string of magnificent performances for Fiorentina last year. Despite Arsenal paying a loan fee for him, he has since been relegated to Arsenal number 3, with Fabianski taking his place between the sticks for the League Cup. One can only think he was signed due to concerns over Fabianski’s injury record and, that with Vito Mannone leaving, Arsenal could not risk having a rookie on the bench. I would be very surprised if we make the loan deal permanent.
It is the future of the rookie goal keepers that interests me the most. Arsenal recently signed 18 year old Matt Macey from Bristol Rovers. His career has not even started yet, but at just 5 years Szczesny’s junior, he is already too old to be considered our next number 1. As he enters the years where it is important he players, Szczesny will be at his peak. And unless he is very, very special, you might as well write off his Arsenal career before it has even started. At best, the 6’6” keeper, who has already been playing under 21 football, will be a number 2 at the club.
The signing of Matt Macey was already a strange one. With Arsenal already having Damian Martinez (21), Deyan Illiev (18), Josh Vickers (17) and Ryan Huddart (16) in the ranks, it is clear there is competition aplenty in the youth teams.
Time is probably running out for Damian Martinez. If Arsenal had faith in him, it is unlikely that they would have got Viviano in on loan. He was on the verge of being promoted to the 1st team during pre-season, but a decision to get in Viviano seems to spell the end of his Arsenal career. He failed to impress last season when in goal against Reading in the League Cup, he is now on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, where he has yet to play.
Deyan Illiev is next in line in terms of age. Signing late in the summer of 2012, the Macedonian played in a couple of the ‘Asenal XI’ pre season friendlies. Looking poor under the high ball, it seems he has already fallen behind Matt Macey in the pecking order of young keepers.
Josh Vickers was the man last season, playing more than any other keeper in our academy. He has since been loaned out to Canvey Island until the end of the season. It is unlikely that the club would let go a 17 year old goal keeper go out on loan if they had faith he would make it. Its more likely he will remain at Canvey Island on a permanent deal, with the younger Ryan Huddart overtaking him.
Ryan Huddart is the youngest of Arsenal 5 young goal keepers. Signed from Charlton in 2012 at 15 after a brilliant performance against Arsenal, he could be the one to push Szczesny in the future. Again, it confuses matters with the signing of Matt Macey. Why sign an 18 year old who effectively ‘kills’ the career of the 16 year old? Huddart certainly has a bit more time on his hand, and could well be breaking through ready to compete for the first team just as Szczesny reaches 30.
What is unclear is who will be Arsenal number 2 next season. With Fabianski out the door, will Arsenal stick with Viviano and make his deal permanent? Or will the seek a senior goal keeper elsewhere, who will know his job and future career will be Szczesny’s number 2? The only one in the current set up who might have taken the step up is Martinez, but he has fallen out of favour.
Out of the group, the 2 to get excited about are Macey and Huddart. They may well have a future at the club as Szczesny’s number 2.
The future will be reminiscent to when David Seaman was at the club, with youth goal keepers being trained to be his number 2, rather than having the ability to be 1st choice. Huddart and Macey attempting to break through could be similar to that of Stuart Taylor and Graham Stack attempting to become 1st choice in the early 00s.
It is unclear what Arsenal are currently doing with their young keepers. They seem to be simply buying anyone who has a decent game throughout youth levels. With Szczesny’s new long term contract, what is clear is that no one in the current Arsenal set up is likely to become Arsenal number 1 over the coming years.