Arsene Wenger has placed fresh uncertainty over Wojciech Szczesny's long-term future at Arsenal but will recall his goalkeeper to the starting team for tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final against Reading.
Szczesny lost his place to David Ospina as the club's first-choice goalkeeper after he was caught lighting a cigarette following a nightmare performance in the 2-0 defeat against Southampton on New Year's Day.
Wenger has since recalled Szczesny for the FA Cup run but hesitated when asked yesterday whether the 24-year-old had a long-term future at the club.
"That is at the moment - I hope yes," he said. "But, at the moment, it is very difficult to answer that question you know. What is important is Saturday."
Wenger did go on to describe Szczesny as a "great" goalkeeper whose attitude had been faultless since he was dropped, but there is clearly now uncertainty over whether he can recapture his place on a more permanent basis.
A situation that might be of major interest to Wenger is the probable availability this summer of Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. The clear sense from Chelsea is that Cech will be given a say on his future out of respect for his legendary status at the club. Cech is happy living in London and so, as unlikely as it may seem, a deal between Wenger and Jose Mourinho has become feasible.
Even if Arsenal do not sign a new goalkeeper, Ospina currently stands in Szczesny's path having only conceded 10 goals in the 15 games since replacing him.
Wenger, though, was adamant yesterday that Arsenal's upsurge in form was due to the return of other key players, notably Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil, as well as the midfield "balance" of the team with Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla.
The decision to play one goalkeeper in the FA Cup and the other in the Premier League was decided at the start of the season. Wenger also stressed that he had replaced Szczesny purely as a consequence of form rather than as part of the disciplinary action over the smoking incident.
"I replaced Wojciech because he had a bad game," he said. "I still think he is a great goalkeeper and I want him to have the opportunity to show that.
They know the rules. It is based on merit. If you have a disastrous game you don't play in the next one. (© Daily Telegraph, London)