“The football hunger is a terrible feeling,” admits Szczęsny in an interview after the Wednesday result with Montpellier. The daily physical recovery exercises were his primary cause of frustration. “You don’t become a footballer to spend several hours a day in a gym.”
Although his no. 1 place in the Arsenal goal was never compromised, it will be much harder for him to reclaim in the Polish squad. After a few weeks’ absence, Wojciech is back in the game. The Pole rejoined the Gunners to teach Tottenham a lesson in the prestigious North London derby, as well as to enter the Champions League knockout stage after beating Montpellier 2-0.
“It’s not a secret I had gone through 7-8 tough weeks,” admits Wojciech Szczęsny. “I could hardly wait to return to the pitch, but my ankle was recovering slowly. Still, I’m happy it’s already over and that we’ve managed to win the last two games.”
Journalist: You must have had too much time on your hands? What have you been up to during the injury break?
Szczesny: My girlfriend had to cheer me up all the time, because I was so unhappy [laughs]. Seriously though, I had spent a lot of time in the training centre on my physical recovery. I had undergone a series of physical exercises. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, you don’t become a footballer to spend several hours a day in a gym, but to play football. However, thanks to all that, I am now physically stronger.
J: So your ankle is fine, then?
Szcz: Not entirely, but it’s good enough for me to play.
J: You already had injuries more serious than this last one. Does the experience help mentally with being unable to play?
Szcz: You’re right, I already had more serious injuries in the past. But this frustration, once it’s in you when you’re injured, you can’t shake it off. You can have five hundred injuries, recover mentally from all of them, but the frustration remains.
J: Especially when Vito Mannone is doing well in the goal
Szcz: I was very happy because of that! Vito is ambitious and wants to be the no. 1 goalkeeper in the team, which makes me motivated to compete with him. If any Arsenal player excels in the game, it’s not a reason for me to worry, even if it’s my goalkeeping rival. I was very happy to see Vito play this well.
J: But you already were in his shoes once and it frustrated you a great deal …
Szcz: It is natural that only one of us can be in goal, whereas the ambition is in us all. I was sincerely happy that Vito managed so well in the goal, and I only hope that our competitive spirits will positively influence our future performances.
J: The Boss never doubted that you are his number 1. I attended the press conference before the game with Fulham, and already then Wenger was saying that as soon as you recover, you’re back in the game.
Szcz: This trust the Boss has given me is very encouraging, especially after the last not-so-good game before my injury. For some reason I deserved his trust during the last 2-3 years. I am fully aware though that the no. 1 position in the goal has not been given to me forever. I always have to try to be the best and help my team.
J: What has changed in Arsenal during your absence?
Szcz: Difficult to say, because since I returned we managed to play two good games and bring two very good results.
Szcz: Beats me! [laughs]. Maybe there is a difference, but only because we won. I didn’t have too much to defend in both games.
J: The communication in the defence department seems to be getting better, and Vermaelen has been moved to the left side.
Szcz: We have already played a couple of times before with him on the left. He is a universal player, good enough to manage on different positions. He has adapted quickly to the new position.
J: Your tally after four games is moderate; yet, you have not left the pitch defeated this season.
Szcz: Not too bad indeed. But I have made my mistakes too. We won one game 6-1, and I have missed the ball that I shouldn’t have missed. So, it’s not as good as the stats might suggest. I do hope though that this run of games without a loss would continue for a long time. It’s a great feeling to be returning for important fixtures, such as Tottenham or the last CL group stage home game; still, the full recovery is what’s the most important. The football hunger is a terrible feeling! I’m glad to be able to play again.
J: Which one was the hardest to watch? Arsenal, or Poland-England?
Szcz: That’s right, Poland-England… It could have been because the game was postponed and I was hoping for a couple of months’ delay [laughs]. I think I was nervous the most watching that one…
J: This is a new situation for you. In the national team you have to prove yourself again, and Tomek Kuszczak is doing much better in Brighton.
Szcz: It’s too early to say, really. When I arrive for the national team camps I intend to give the most of me, hoping that I am going to play too. It doesn’t matter to me who’s going to be number 1 now. When Poland plays well enough to win, no one cares who’s in the goal, Szczęsny, Tytoń or Kuszczak. We are Poles and we keep our fingers crossed for Poland, nothing else matters. Nevertheless, I will always aim to be the number 1 in the national team. That will never change.
Interviewed by Robert Błaszczak at the Emirates Stadium
Translated from Polish by Gunners.com.pl