As one goalkeeper fought back the tears after admitting his regrets over how his time at Arsenal ended, another highly-rated shot-stopper proved his value to the club with an excellent cameo appearance against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup in Shanghai.
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The presentation of Wojciech Szczesny at Juventus on Wednesday afternoon ironically took place as the Gunners were playing their third pre-season friendly of the summer against Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Despite an early penalty from Robert Lewandowski - an all too familiar sight for Arsenal goalkeepers in recent seasons – the Gunners fought back to level through Alex Iwobi’s bullet header, before substitute Emi Martinez won a game played in searing 39 degree heat by saving two penalties in the shootout from David Alaba and Juan Bernat.
While the objective in pre-season for all clubs will always be to increase fitness levels ahead of the new campaign, there can be no getting away from the fact that it remains the ideal platform for new signings and youngsters to be assessed. Opposition such as Bayern and Saturday’s opponents Chelsea help fine tune technical and tactical issues before the real work begins.
Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation remains one area with question marks over it. At 35-years-old, Petr Cech is one of the most decorated footballers in the game and a consummate professional, yet mistakes which crept into his game last season cannot be overlooked. Goals conceded at his near post and diving the wrong way on penalties have become commonplace. Indeed, Lewandowski’s goal in Shanghai means the former Chelsea man has now failed to save his last 12 consecutive penalties since arriving in north London.
The introduction of Jens Lehmann to the Arsenal coaching staff will almost certainly improve Cech and the other goalkeepers at Arsenal and it was noticeable that his decisiveness already appears to be better than last season.
David Ospina is another excellent goalkeeper with bags of experience at international level, yet his future lies elsewhere and after a summer move to Fenerbahce fell through it looks like he could be staying at Arsenal for the coming season. Amidst all of that, there is a 24-year-old goalkeeper waiting in the wings who does have the potential to become the Gunners No.1 if he is given the opportunity.
Argentine custodian Martinez has been restricted to League Cup appearances since he arrived at Arsenal but a clean sheet in the Premier League encounter with West Ham in April provided a timely reminder that the club do have a quality goalkeeper ready to play when needed.
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Many supporters want to see Arsene Wenger sign a new goalkeeper due to the departure of Szczesny and likely exit for Ospina, but spending £30 million on a relative rookie like Jordan Pickford makes little sense when your own academy product regularly impresses in training sessions and when called upon in competitive games.
“He’s a player with, first of all, top quality. Basic qualities for a goalkeeper, he has the size, the power, the technical level because he has worked with us for a long time now,” said Wenger at the end of last season.
“But as well he has that kind of mental confidence and security that he gives out when he’s in goal that makes you think ‘it’s normal that I’m in goal, it’s normal that I’m here. I’m not intermittent; I’m here to stay here.’ And you feel that.
“He gives a kind of security that’s very positive.”
It’s now up to Martinez to stake his claim for the much-coveted No.1 jersey and a match-winning performance against Bayern Munich - whether a friendly or not – sends out the perfect message to both Wenger and Arsenal fans that he can be Cech’s successor.