Wojciech Szczesny: From Griffin Park to Wembley

wearethenorthbank.com spoke to Wojciech Szczesny as he prepares for the Carling Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday.

Few players have burst on the scene at Arsenal and made such an immediate impact, but Wojciech Szczesny has staked a huge claim to be Arsenal’s number one for years to come since becomming a Premier League regular at the turn of the year.

Since the retirement of David Seaman, but for a couple of solid years of service for Jens Lehmann, Arsenal have been searching for an assured, world class goalkeeper. Having been linked with just about every available keeper on the planet (and a few that weren’t available), Arsene Wenger has refrained from spending on a new goalkeeper in the past few seasons.

Wenger’s masterplan was to purchase an experienced stop-gap keeper to allow for Sczcesny to be blooded as the back-up. Of course, Mark Hughes put paid to Mark Schwarzer providing that stop-gap; but one way or another – and to the detriment of a few dropped points (I’m thinking West Brom and Newcastle at home especially) Wenger’s vision has come to the fore earlier than planned.

Szczesny is set to play in his first major final on Sunday with the Carling Cup Final at Wembley proving to be a landmark for the Szczesny house hold in more ways than one.

“We’ve got a massive game on Sunday,” Szczesny told wearethenorthbank.com. “We’re looking forward to playing at Wembley. We haven’t been there for some time so it will be a great experience and we’re hoping to win the first trophy of the season.”

It’s plain to see Szczesny’s confidence in his own ability, and after an impressive loan spell at League One Brentford last term, the Poland international wanted to kick on. And after publicly bemoaning his lack of first team opportunities earlier in the season, it has since been quite a turnaround.

“I was ready for [the first team], but it’s down to the manager to make the decisions. Thankfully I took my chances well and we have a chance to play at Wembley now. I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly but I’m delighted with it.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that my long term future was at this club.”

This time last season, Szczesny was playing a fundamental part in keeping Brentford in League One, and now the 20-year-old is set to take his place in Arsenal’s goal in a Wembley final.

“I was at Wembley when we played against Chelsea in the semi final and lost 2-1,” he says.

“I love the atmosphere, I love the surroundings and I’m looking forward to playing there. It’s a massive occasion but I believe I’m going to enjoy it.

“As a young kid it’s your dream to play at stadiums like that so when you actually do get to play there you have to enjoy it.”

He then exemplifies his brimming self confidence: “I’m very confident,” he says, ”I keep my feet on the ground, but nothing really phases me. I don’t think it’s hard. I was born this way. I believe in my own abilities. That’s why I’m confident whenever I go out on the pitch.

“Whether it’s Stoke and we have to face a lot of crosses or Barcelona with the best strikers in the world, I’m confident in my abilities.”

And it’s those abilities that have seen Szczesny being compared to possibly the finest Premier League goalkeeper (aside from Seaman of course) in Peter Schmeichel, a player the Pole admired as a youngster, along with a role model a bit closer to home.

“I’ve always used my dad (former Poland and Legia No1, Maciej Szczesny) as my role model”‘ he says “I’ve always looked to him for advice. But if you ask me who my favourite keeper of all time is, it’s Peter Schmeichel. As a kid I used to watch him and admire him. It’s very humbling to have been compared to him and I hope I can achieve as much in my career as he did.

“My dad will be at Wembley. I have a few members of my family coming;  my brother, and my grandad, Kazimierz [sic], is leaving Poland for the first time in his life, so that will be a big occasion! I’m very pleased he’s coming. He’s watched me a few times for the national team. It’s an extra incentive for me to do well.

The keen Twitterer doesn’t buy into the notion that Arsenal are favourites to lift the three-eared cup but feels that if Wenger’s boys end their six year trophy drought it will provide the perfect platform leading into the business end of the season.

“It’s the only chance [Birmingham] will get to win a trophy this season so they will be up for it. It’s hard to say who’s the favourite but we believe we can beat them and win the trophy. It would give us a massive boost. If we do win the trophy we will have even more desire to push on from there and win all the trophies remaining.

“We believe we are capable of winning the title,” he continues with wide eyes. “We’ve been very consistent lately and we don’t concede a lot of goals. We fancy our chances of catching them up and winning the title this year.

“If we keep playing consistently, this will make a difference in the title race. They’ve got to come here and we believe we are capable of beating them.”