The opening day of the 2012 European Championships has finished in Poland and whilst we get ready for tomorrow's action in Ukraine with the thrilling Group B, there's one player dominating the talking points, Arsenal and Poland's goalkeeper Woijciech Szczesny who not only was at fault for ten-man Greece's equaliser in the second half but was also sent off in the opening game of the tournament. It begs the question whether he really is one of the top keeper's in Europe as a few have suggested.
There's no doubt Szczesny is a character, and a usually competent goalkeeper but his decision making seems to be a little off and in big games he seems to make most of his mistakes. In last year's Carling Cup Final he arguably had the worst game of his short Arsenal career, heavily tipped to be the next big thing (not just due to his enormous size), Szczesny could easily have been dismissed for a foul on Lee Bowyer just minutes into the game, an incorrect offside flag saved Szczesny, but he played a part in the goal that lost Arsenal the cup when miscommunication between him and centre-half Laurent Koscielny let Obafemi Martins in to win it for Birmingham. He also could of been sent off again seconds from the end when he came racing out of his goal and took out Martins but the officials deemed it to be fair.
It's not the only time Szczesny has made mistakes, late last season in a crucial game against Norwich, Szczesny made several mistakes which led to Norwich gaining a three-all draw which almost cost Arsenal UEFA Champions League qualification. Szczesny also blamed himself for the 2-1 defeat against Fulham in that season.
It seems in the big games Szczesny, most likely due to his lack of experience gets nervous, in today's opening game of his country's European Championships in Woijciech's home-town of Warsaw he made an error which allowed Greece to equalise and was later sent off. These mistakes don't brand Szczesny a terrible goalkeeper, even though his save percentage is low, his commanding of his area and ability to deal with crosses make him a better candidate in goal than other Arsenal predecessors but the mistakes in big games are causing him to gain critics. It could be that Szczesny's tournament is over, his replacement Tyton had a much more relaxed and better game, saving the penalty Szczesny gave away. Tyton, who is three years Szczesny's senior plays for PSV in Holland.
Perhaps it is Szczesny's predecessors that make Szczesny look even better than he is, he has made some crucial saves, for example his amazing penalty save against Udinese in the UEFA Champions League Play-Off last season and his amazing double-save against Liverpool later on that season, but no Arsenal fans would have stood for the mistakes he has made had they have come from players like Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski or Vito Mannone and although he has time to improve and he's getting his mistakes out early, but unfortunately in the first team, Szczesny has made some pretty poor mistakes, especially in big games. Had Szczesny been replacing David Seaman or even Jens Lehmann, I think he may have been received the same way that players like Almunia and Fabianski have, as he is replacing those players who have had bad spells at the club (other than Fabianski's very good run before injury the season before last) it is fair to say he may get an easier ride than most as he does look more stable.å
There is time for him to improve, lets not doubt he is a good young talent, but one of Europe's best he is yet not.