I was, like many others, rather befuddled when news first broke earlier this year that Szczesny had been chosen as Buffon’s successor in waiting. For the Pole has a somewhat curious reputation from his days with the Gunners.
Often thought of as a superb goalkeeper on his day, yet equally renowned for a vibrant character which leaned on occasion towards an absence of the professionalism and desire to succeed required of those who are destined to reach the very top of the sport. He has always seemed a lively lunatic, yet the same can be said of all the greatest shot stoppers, other than perhaps our very own Santo Buffon. For if there is one position which places you always on a knife’s edge, capable of immortalising one moment, condemning as a villain the next, it is the goalkeeper.
So it comes as no surprise to find The Great Dane, Rene Higuita, Kahn, Chilavert, all memorable characters (some would say mentalists) who Szczesny counts as his own tribe.
My own opinion is that he was too much of a fan to ever quite manage to fully become solely the professional at Arsenal. His love for the club where he spent 11 years was perhaps too strong for the boy in his heart to find the focus to make the most of his opportunities as a man.
Beyond the colourful on and off-field personality, the chap can play. Despite the smoking incident, passionate embrace of the fans and boyish tendencies, Wojciech did find some serious success in North London. Yet once his place was won, then lost, then won, then lost, he finally decided to head out on loan to Rome. Where he found a different, more mature football culture, a tactically astute brand of football, a wife…and the discipline he had been lacking in England. Whatever the reasons for his moderate, yet notable transformation, essentially from boy to man, it is clear that he has developed in leaps and bounds.
In short, he is not the same player who left England in 2015. He is far superior.
I remember scouting the Brazilian Allisson, who I had wanted us to sign and I believe we were interested. He looked an amazing talent. Yet the Brazil number 1 found himself playing second fiddle to Szczesny for the duration of last season.
“I also think though that Juve have made the best choice they could make, because Szczesny, in my opinion, had a great season last year.
“He was probably the best goalkeeper in terms of consistency, and saves made.
“I think that it’s an intelligent marriage between the strongest club and the one who was the strongest goalkeeper last year. (Buffon, June 2017)
Such praise from a living legend, perhaps the greatest keeper of all time, adds sweetly to the statistical analysis made by Squawka which places the Pole as the best performing goalkeeper in the top five leagues of Europe last season.
We were never going to be able to forge a like for like replacement for Gigi. The only keeper I see as anywhere near his level is De Gea, whose heart will see him assuredly leave United at some stage solely for Madrid. For huge money. Well beyond the exceptionally cheap fee of EU12.2m (EU15.3 with performance related bonuses) we recently paid Arsenal to secure Wojciech on a 4 year deal until 2021.
It has long been my assumption that the most logical plan would be to highlight the long term successor, ideally from within Italy so that the player would come already well adjusted to the football and culture. Bring him in during the season which seems Buffon’s final hurrah, give him a chance to bed in to the club, not just develop the winning mentality and responsibility required of any player fortunate enough to don the black and white, but equally importantly, learn from Buffon and become a part of the squad, invest into the club ethos.
All of these aims are met, thus far, with the signing of Szczesny, who at 27 years of age is now entering the beginning of his prime.
He has grasped at the opportunity, though clearly left North London with a heavy heart. An unexpected sense of humility has also appeared at just the right time…
“I learned more in four months under Spalletti than in 10 years in England…”
‘The one thing I want to do is make sure I don’t stay still,’
‘I was quite still for five years – sometimes I played better, sometimes worse, sometimes phenomenal, sometimes rubbish. You take steps forwards and backwards. It is not very good for your head if you go up and down and up and down. I want to try to keep going up, with my quality and with my decisions that I make.
‘I am 27, the best I have ever been, I still have room to improve and I want to make sure that room doesn’t stay empty. I want to go into that room. It feels like a big moment.
‘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.’ (Guardian interview May 2017)
I like his openness, his confidence, his eagerness to improve further, his vocal nature and of course his powerful presence as the last line of defence. Also his ambition, for with the World Cup looming on the horizon, his position as number one for Poland might well be in jeopardy if he barely features or when he does, his performances are haphazard, which can happen when spending large amounts of time on the bench. It can be tricky to retain the sharpness when out of the firing line.
My reckoning of the man is that he is superbly talented, has a huge heart and strong character and he needed to get out of England to kickstart his career and personal development as a player and a man. I sincerely believe we have signed a keeper who we might well be talking of as world class in a year or two. And the club should be lauded for working through what was always going to be a majorly difficult task sensibly and as well as I could have hoped.
My only minor gripe is his damn name, which even after learning the Wojciech, remains needing copy and paste for the Szczesny. In terms of how an anglo saxon tongue should attempt to pronounce it, phonetically speaking, the name of our new addition to the squad is Voychek Sheznee. Which would be much easier to remember how to type!
Also, I suspect that Dybala will be pleased to find a fellow Pole in the dressing room. For whilst he is born and bred Argie, he is well aware of his roots. A superb read of that story can be found here.
(NB. Whilst on the topic of Poland, I will mention that I will next week be heading to Moscow, hopefully to clink glasses of russian firewater with comrade Vlad! Failing which, to begin my long overdue conversion to Cossack…I have organised very little indeed, other than a place to lay my mangled head in Russia, then Estonia. My aim is to then head to Riga, Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Brussels and perhaps Paris before a final week in early September in the motherland to nourish my roots as I half smile at the ever growing army of little monsters born of my brethren and seek the Sussex Downs to take in the majestic view of the valleys and fields as the butterflies rest on my knees. The point of this, is not the beginning of a travel diary, but to suggest an open offer to any of our flock here at juvefc or beyond, who might like to collide and drink and talk all matters Juve and whatever else comes to mind. Please feel free to send word to email@example.com if you are to be found in any of my likely destinations.)
The second player to join of late is 24 year old Mattia De Sciglio. The former AC Milan wide defender comes with a wealth of experience, the ability to play on either flank and from all accounts, a burning desire to start a new chapter in his career.
There are some who doubt his pedigree, which is hard to understand given he has been very much a favourite of Montella, Conte, Mihajlovic, Prandelli and of course Allegri.
Mattia has been considered by consecutive managers of La Nazionale as one of the best Italy has offered, after representing his country at senior level 31 times, which is no mean feat for a player still by many measures a youngster with plenty of potential still to find and plumb. He has featured for Italy at the Confederations Cup (2013), World Cup (2014) and European Championship (2016)…and will be eager to move past his stop-start most recent campaign to stake his claim for a place in La Nazionale for Russia next year.
When it comes to defenders, the most important aspect I first and foremost ponder and judge is Can He Defend? On this score…Mattia is top drawer. He picks his time to dive in carefully, has physicality beyond his outline and height and reads the attacking flow towards his goal very well indeed.
To sign a player with over 130 senior appearances in the top flight with AC Milan, 30+ for his country, still aged just 24 for EU12m (Eu12.5 with performance related bonus) is another outstanding piece of business from Marotta and the club as a whole.
We continue the tradition of bringing the best that Italy can offer to wear the black and white, and I find it bizarre, yet a sign of the times, that a sizeable contingent see this as a poor or average signing. It seems that if we do not sign the players heralded by the media, who cost mega money, then we are failing. Results on the field, for the last six years tell a markedly different story. A team is no built on money alone, it is built by signing the right players…
Desci, as he is nicknamed, is comfortable on either flank, brilliantly strong in the challenge, offering intelligent distribution in the final third. Given our recent decision to avoid Schick, I can but assume our medical staff are 100% confident his various injury woes are behind him, and I am actually quite excited to see him join the fold. For he impressed me hugely during the European Championships of last year and has by far the better part of his career ahead of him.
Whilst I have always considered Mattia a rather quiet chap, clearly some of his quotes and Montella – who made him captain for a fair few games last term – instruct of a more robust and vocal character. Already friendly with the juve contingent who play for their country, and with a long established relationship with Allegri, the fullback (terzino) seems an ideal addition to the squad.
He will not be vying with Sandro for the LB spot, though can cover there if need be. Most likely he is a direct replacement for Alves. And I suspect that in the long or even short term, he might prove an upgrade. Alves was top drawer on a mere handful of important occasions, playing more as a right winger, than a right back. His immense egoism cannot have been a positive element in the dressing room. And for this and many other reasons, I am glad that five faced goblin has gone, and De Sciglio has come.
He seemed humble and focused upon signing…
I’m very excited to be joining a top club both in Italy and in Europe,” he told the club’s You Tube channel. “It’s an honour to be here and I’ll do everything to repay their trust in me.
“My first aim is to settle into this group and earn the respect of my team-mates. That’s really important. From then on, I’ll do my all to repay the club, showing that I belong here and I’ll look to earn the backing of the fans.
No doubt Desci will find the perfect guidance in Stephan Lichsteiner whose experience will be vital in the continued development of one of the finest fullbacks the peninsula has produced in recent times.
For a combined cost of EU27.8m – a pittance by modern standards – the club have signed two established players of international pedigree, of good age and proven talent, who both know the league and the country.
(Follow me on twitter here)
Completely agree, both are great signings. Mattia hasn’t been given the praise he deserves, most ask what he’s done in the last couple years? The same as Milan to be fair is how I usually answer. He has become a product of his environment, this happens to a lot of players and even us with regular jobs. He’ll flourish at Juve without a doubt.
I read somewhere, maybe here, not quite sure, that Marotta wanted a non Italian to take over for Gigi, that any Italian stepping in for Gigi might crumble at the pressure and expectations placed on him. Buffons replacement will eventually come to Juve, for now we’ll settle with a man who can keep the ball out of the goal. Szczesny may become the leader we need, but with Barzagli, Chiellini, Marchisio, and of course Buffon still around, Szczesny can just continue filling his room of improvement.
That makes sense and ties in with the assumption I have long held of the club making effort to avoid anyone assuming we have signed the new Buffon. Also, I do not see an italian keeper as established and quality as the Pole.
People might scream for Donnarumma, but for me he remains great for his age, but nowhere near consideration of the world’s best. If he was not at AC Milan with Raiola as his agent, I doubt he would be a household name by now.
Of the other keepers of the current generation, I have always liked Perrin. Yet the poor lad has atrocious misfortune with injuries. Still young enough to find himself in contention further down the line.
Leali fared well enough in Greece, and now seems set for yet another loan, perhaps in Italy, I hope back in the top flight.
Audero has been loaned to Venezia in Serie B…who are managed by none other than Pippop Inzaghi!
Been a few moves in the youth sector, yet I prefer to wait till the mercato closes then cover them all…Just thought it was worth mentioning the two goalkeeping prospects on our books.
Del Favero, who will be the number 1 for the primavera this season, has been a regular for the Italy U19 squad for a fair while. Looks another promising shot stopper.
Glad to find some others of the same mind as me in regards to De Sciglio.
First week in September I shall be taking a day out going to Pink Floyd exhibition in Londinium….. If you are around sir I can steer myself to a hostilary!
My friend, I will be in Brighton for the 1st-4th or 5th September, then am leaning towards spending the two nights before I leave on the 7th from Gatwick, in a canal boat…if this can conjure a collision, send word!
I guess that unless you are sailing her up the Thames to park up next to HMS Belfast then perhaps not this time chap!
For little help 😛 As for the comment: Wojtek is a great GK who SHOULD play in the first squad. Sitting on the bench can be good for him… or not. I’m really curious about their interchangeability in subsequent matches.
I think we will see Buffon rested in between matches more than ever before. Used mainly for CL games, and for big games in the league. I do not believe that Wojciech would have signed without an assurance he will make enough appearances to keep sharp, be given a fair crack of the whip and also maintain his place for Poland.
Buffon is a classy fellow. He will understand and show nothing but support for his new pal between the sticks.
Yup, I read in the Polish press that Wojtek was given the assurance that he would play at least 20 games in the coming season, probably 5 in Coppa Italia and 15? Of course Buffon will help him, but I’m not quite convinced of the frequent rotation on this position.
That would make perfect sense…and in terms of how it will affect the cohesion of the team, I do not have any concerns. The defence can learn to play with both, yet will be focused more on learning to play with each other as times have changed. We do not have Bonucci, which is another reason why I am eager for a deep lying playmaker/ screen for the defence, so the defence can focus on defending and the attackers dont need to keep coming deep for the ball.
Took me a while on Szczesny but by now I fully understand why he was brought in. Management really knows what they need.
Personally enthusiastic with Desci arriving. I liked him for the Azzurri and while his recent time with Milan was disappointing, i admire the guy still.
Milan was in shambles, cant blame Desci for that. Feel and hope he will thrive in a well run club like Juve
Good point on Desci, my friend…I am excited to see him play also! And whilst Costa and Bernardeschi are phenomenal signings, I am most excited about Bentancur. The more I read of him and watch the more I feel he has staggering potential. It is silly to place too much expectation on his first season, but there is much I am very impressed by…
He is very tidy in tight spaces with the ball at his feet, plays some delightful passes both long and short, always swiftly delivered and whilst I haven’t seen him throwing his all into challenges he is careful defensively, seeming to prefer to cover, mark, then nick the ball, and off he goes…Also like the way he moves with the ball, gliding gracefully for a big lad covering a lot of ground quickly.
Whilst he was at first more of a DM in a midfield 3, he was moved to a position on the left in a sort of diamond, where he was able to show his offensive talents more readily. Same position Pogba used to play for us, another big man with great feet.
As for weaknesses, the most obvious, from my own research is his work in the final third. He rarely appears to shoot! And needs to learn how to make use of his very promising eye for a pass. Yet he is only just turned 20! So has plenty of time to improve in that area.
Difficult to reference other players who he reminds me of, but Zidane comes to mind, in terms of the close control and ability to swiftly move out of danger and on the front foot. He has nowhere near the output of Zidane in the final third…yet! But yes, he does come to mind, for the one thing I noticed about Zidane in his first season which seemed very rare indeed, was the control of the ball he expressed. It was stuck to his feet with string!
I liked Bentancur very much in our most recent game vs. Barça.. he had a few great plays in spite of our horrendous passing in that first half.
Just got back from the cinema where I watched this wonderful documentary about Juve.
Black and White Stripes – The Juventus Story
Whilst my knowledge of the club is pretty decent, this film served as an education. It focuses hugely on the Agnelli family, and I strongly urge all juventini to watch it. On several occasions I had to tighten my tear ducts to stop the tears emerging, such was the emotion, the sadness, the grief, and then the redemption.
They could have covered the calciopoli routine in more depth but then it would have dominated the film which is about far more than that horror show. Brilliant experience to feel much closer to the family and the players and you come to realise how big a story, well beyond the field and trophies, Juventus is and has been for so many moons.
Its an epic.
So looking at the trailer and website I take it this is a re-release of the film with a English overdub narration then GP?;
Could be my friend…Lapo is a eccentric goon, but I like his passion, and he speaks of the club as if it is part of him, part of something so much bigger than some realise, always with pride. He has the name and look of an elf…
700 km in my car behind me today, a lot of fuckers met , like honestly, people are crazy on roads, i almost died (plus 4 others) cos of “Hamilton” tried to show himself ?thanks god we are alive.
well , Wojta , the Pole,? im not happy with him, but hey, he is juve player now, Wish you all the best , show yourself man!
MDS,…what to say? damn, no idea, …make us love you Mattia.
But Im pretty happy with Douglas, what a player.He was the best player against us back then.Full of action. fingers crossed Douglas
For MDS, i’ll say a fair chance has been availed hm to prove his doubters wrong and get his ratings shoot up.
I still ave reservations about the Pole though, just hoping he finds inspiration from the geat Buffon and makes us all proud in the end.
I will like to see mattia and bernardeschi become the face of juventus down the line. Much like we had BBC (alas Bonucci defected for whatever reasons). I sincerely hope they relish their opportunity with us and grow to become national team stalwarts. It was my belief that the best Italian talents have to play at Juve and Milan for Serie A to become a force again and for the national team to perform consistently and not just punch above their weights.
Agreed, Mr P.
It is almost like the return of 90s Buerlesconi, when he entered the fray and tried to a sign a whol side of superstars after our period of prolonged brilliance and dominance.
Perhaps there is some truth to the old adage that life moves in cycles…
I think this has been a great and underrated mercato. Only thing that would make it excellent is a top midfielder.. and by “top” I don’t necessarily mean a big name, just someone who can do the job well.
I don’t want Sturaro and Rincón to leave, either. Rincón should be given more than half a season to prove his worth, and I still (still!) have faith in Stura. I hope Mandragora stays, too.
I’m ok with Lemina’s departure, though.. I feel like he’s reached his peak with Juve, and he could only improve with a continuity we’re not ready (nor willing, it seems) to give him.
On topic: I’ve warmed up to Sheznee.. and, as an Italian, I’m rooting for Mattia!
I am glad you have warmed to Wojciech…it has taken enough effort to learn that name, for my finger, the surname is another world entirely. yet perhaps my last minute attempts to learn russian, as I am heading to Moscow shortly, will make such alien symbols and sounds more readily accommodated!
I feel the mercato has already hugely exceeded my expectations, Elisa…I have become accustomed to us strengthening one position with proven class each year, but we have moved beyond this, for…
Costa, the STARTING LW for Brazil, has joined the ranks. I do not know what this spells for Mandzukic, who I revere as a player, as a warrior who will die for the cause, but clearly we have improved our options there.
Bernardeschi…A stunning improvement on not just Cuadrado, but also Alves, and I mean to take into account mentality. federico appears to have deeply wanted Juve, he works damn hard, is not Baggio, but is capable of conjuring plenty of assists and he knows where the goal is. So damn young…yet already an established attacking midfielder who can play LM/RM/AM…huge signing.
De Sciglio…Italian, highly experienced. More sturdy than he appears in the tackle and supports the attack splendidly. I believe he will prove a major success.
Chesny…lets call him that for now…is a step above Neto, mainly due to his presence. And has been in Buffon’s words, the best keeper in Italy last season. How can anyone seriously question Santo Buffon?
As for the DM/CM…To be fair, whilst I have been ranting of this matter, this issue in the midfield, for many moons, it was dar black who added sense to my virtual squeals. I do believe the side lacks a linchpin, a fulcrum, a player who can scrap, muscle and hustle, screen the defence, affect if not dictate the tempo, provide a wall in the middle, play the ball simple if not intelligently…Pjanic and Khedira are both very offensive minded, they both are at their happiest when in offensive positions, which leaves us creative, yet also rather weak defensively in the middle, Hence my roar for this crease to be ironed out…I have come to suspect that Bentancur and Mandragora fit the bill perfectly. Even to have Marchisio in the role, who lacks the physicality but has huge footballing intelligence, would be welcome. Matuidi would be welcome, but he is costly for his age. Can has never impressed or seemed poor and is costly. Nzonzi would be the halfway measure, yet how many La Liga players transplant their spanish form to Italy?
In short, I would be happy with the mercato as it stands, IF, we are to retain one of, perhaps both – as Rincon and STuraro and Lemina seem to have no value to our cause – of the young guns.
The real question is whether Max sees the need for more muscle and hustle and a fulcrum…I believe so, hence our eagerness for a DM/CM.
I have a lot of faith in ROlando and Rodrigo. Why spend 30 or 40m, when we potentially have already in the ranks a player, perhaps even two, who can do the job we require?
To be honest, I warmed up to the idea of Woj after Buffon’s interview and not a moment sooner.
As far as the midfield, I think we have muscle players in Sturaro and Rincón, maybe Asamoah (although after his injuries I think he’s a bit less physical than what I remember him being, and understandably so)…. but… we all know what comes after the “but”. Things only seemed to work when we had Pjanic-Khedira as a main couple in the MF, with Marchisio usually thrown in as a sub, and not having other viable options is what worries me. I guess what I really wish for is a Mandzukic-type player in the midfield who’s gonna give 150% regardless of who he’s paired up with.
I honestly don’t know much about Rolando or Bentancur.. I know they are midfielders, and am a liiiiittle more familiar with Rolando’s game from watching him with the Azzurrini and in Serie A a few times, but I don’t have a good memory… and I usually try to stay away from player videos in YouTube. So, I guess we’ll see!
We are still weak and vulnerable in midfield if/once we have lost possession. I suspect with the loss of Bonucci that has exacerbated. We must find a holding / defensive midfielder to play.
Greetings from arbat street, Moscow, my friend…where you find me eating Georgian stroganoff and drinking Georgian beer as quickly as possible for absence of the chill, I suspect it might be horrid.
I’ve been out the game since late last week as I was traveling to Russia. Even since, I only peek now and then…
From the friendlies I’ve seen, marchisio looks back to somewhere near his best, bentancur is every inch the player I’ve been banging on about and I assume we might still be in for a dm. It’s an odd story…for we could play with three, it seems, but then one of Costa, dybala, bernadeschi (once he works his way into the side) has to miss out. Higuain always plays as the figurehead.
Competition for places is good, healthy but I would like to see all those four on the field in our finest xi. I suppose berna could play tucked in with marchiso in the middle, pjanic on the cml. Costa lwf, higuain, dybala rwf. Yet dybala has been settled in a more obviously roaming trequartista role.
I do believe that adding marchisio, to reprise the fulcrum role, would alleviate some of the issues we have both seen and want fixed. Claudio might lack the beastliness but his footballing intelligence is immense and he can play the ball, transition superbly.
If a DM comes in one will be bothered. Sami perhaps…maybe he will leave. It makes no sense to keep a returned to anywhere near top form principino out of the starting xi. Our only world class midfielder, when and if fully fit and back to top sharpness.
Of all the places I’ve been in the world, Moscow has by far the highest, an insane amount of beautiful women…With most the men looking like soldiers or thugs.
I must say people and after trying to do the best I can, I still hate the new Juve logo. This experiment is a complete disaster. Their marketing people should all be fired.
I’m really hoping it doesn’t last.
It has actually grown on me, quicker than I had thought possible. The kits look splendid, its understated but feels right.
Agreed 100%. It is a totally meaningless logo, and a much better one incorporating the old logo has been created by a fan.
For those who missed it, I strongly urge you to listen to this. It is the Chief here aka moderator (which never suits) aka Rav. For me as an englishman, it is brilliant to hear an english voice clearly of the same black and white heart, and in terms of presenting to the world top drawer reportage, emotion tempered by a mature, wise mind, it is a brilliant piece if punditry.
I was and remain keen to produce one of these with Rav, but he has set the stall so damn high! I may be more palatable in written form. Yet this is not about me, its about promoting one of the finest commentators on our shared passion, a love which burns with the same flames for each and every one of us.
And cheers, Rav.
Congrats on a great podcast, Rav!
Grazie Elisa !
Thanks for sharing Comrade !
This is a request, but as I don’t know where to raise it, it comes with apologies for the misplacement
Currently we can late nights/early mornings, that is for people situated in EU, follow the International Champions Cup in the big US, where a lot of our young guns are being tested.
Could you create a post about this, just for the sake of the comment section so people can give their views on how the talents are doing?. I read soemwhere else that M. Kean did well yesterday against PSG, one player that I really wish mr. Allegri would include in the squad.
I saw us against Barcelona, which featured much less of the exciting players, but again it would be interesting to hear fellow Juventinos’ view on the game.
Apologies for the delay in responding – I will create a pinned post for the remaining Juve friendlies so we can discuss the players there over the course of the next month – I’ll start with the Juve v Roma friendly today.
No worries, there are still a few games for our youngsters and new starlets to prove themselves.