Monday 23 April 2018

Szczesny 'unfazed' by facing Catalans on Euro debut

Jeremy Wilson

A Premier League debut at Old Trafford and now a first start in the Champions League against Barcelona -- there is no question of Wojciech Szczesny being gently eased into the limelight.

Fortunately, at only 20, his outlook is of someone who seems to regard every match as an adventure and an opportunity rather than an ordeal.

"Wojciech's not fazed by anything," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "Most people, if they were told they were playing Barcelona, they might have a nervous night. He's never overawed. It's part of the job not to be inhibited when the competition is on.

"There are some players who do less well in matches than in training and some others the reverse. He becomes who he really is during competition. He doesn't give you the feeling that he's nervous."

Szczesny's journey from fourth-choice Arsenal goalkeeper to a starting place for their most eagerly anticipated match of the season has been remarkable.

A year ago, he was on loan at Brentford. And tonight, he might well be the busiest player on the pitch. "Surreal" is Szczesny's description of his involvement, but few would doubt that he is ready.

Injuries to Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski presented Szczesny (below) with his chance and he duly kept a clean sheet in six out of 12 starts, something he also achieved 10 times during 28 matches on loan last season with Brentford.

Such statistics suggest his presence has a major influence on defenders.

Gunners centre-back Johan Djourou said that Szczesny is quite prepared to give his more experienced team-mates a "rollicking".

"He is not scared about anything," said Djourou. "He is a great guy and very confident. For a guy of his age to have that is quite impressive.

"He is very loud. He has presence. He is quite big and is good for defenders. It looks as though he has been in the game ages. It is great when you have a keeper behind you who gives you more confidence."

At 6ft 5in, Szczesny has outstanding physical attributes allied to his temperament and has already overcome one serious injury, having broken both forearms during a freak training accident in 2008.

"He makes unbelievable saves," said Wenger. "He has something that you cannot give to people. He has that presence." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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