Wojciech Szczesny has revealed his time at AS Roma has helped him reevaluate how good a keeper he can be and says his move to Italy was probably the best thing to happen to him after his Arsenal dream turned into a nightmare.
During two loan spells at the Stadio Olimpico, the 27-year-old, who has the most clean sheets in Serie A this season, has done much to repair a reputation that was left in tatters after a bizarre decision to smoke in the dressing room following a poor performance at Southampton on New Year’s Day 2015.
Under contract at the Emirates for one more year, the Poland international is due to discuss his future at the end of the current campaign with Arsene Wenger having to make a big call over whether to keep or cash in on the player he signed in 2006. For his part, the player reiterated last week his desire to have another crack at being Arsenal’s number one.
Speaking to the Guardian’s Amy Lawrence, the player reflected: “The season before I left I had a very bad season – performances, injuries, off field – it was terrible
“I could have stayed in an environment that was going negatively for me. Instead the opportunity that came gave me a fresh start. You get a new perspective. You get new coaches and influences. You learn new drills. You do new things.
“Now I am very happy that it happened, even if the first impression was that I might be out of Arsenal, which was very painful. Now I think it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
“The biggest thing I have taken away from these two years at Roma is the fact I grew as a goalkeeper. It’s just raising your levels, your standards. I absorbed a bigger knowledge of football, the tactical side of the game. You don’t see me with that rush of blood that I used to have as a younger keeper. It’s not that I don’t feel that rush of blood but tactically you are more aware of when to be involved, when to let the defenders recover.”
He added: “I think I can be better now than I thought I could be when I was back at Arsenal. I have grown more than I would have hoped for. Now I think with the right work, the right attitude, I can go a long way. I always want to be the best but now I feel a bit closer to it.
“When I have my head on the 2017-18 season, then we make a decision – first Arsenal has to and then I have to. I want to make sure I take my time, clear my head of this season, and then focus on doing the right thing. What that is time will show.”
It’s pretty obvious Wojciech still considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool Gooner, also admitting in the article that he tries to watch Arsenal’s games whenever possible (“It hurts being an Arsenal fan watching as it has been a painful year”) and that winning with Roma “doesn’t taste as good” as it did at the Emirates.