The first player under review for the 2011-12 season is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Szczesny was a bit of an Iron Man this season, starting all 38 Premier League matches, 1 FA Cup match, and 9 Champions League matches. In these 48 starts, he had 18 clean sheets, which isn't spectacular, but in truth, Arsenal's defending as a team was often subpar, and Mr. Szczesny was often stranded. Szczesny is 22 years old, and played the last few matches of the season with a shoulder injury which curtailed his training and necessitated medicinal injections to allow him to play matches. What follows are each of our thoughts on Szczesny.
Come with us after the jump!
Ted: The common perception is that goalkeepers are nuts. Well, I don't think Szczesny is nuts, but he is certainly not lacking in confidence or a mouth, either. For the most part, his shot stopping and reflexes are excellent, and he does pretty well in the air, at least in comparison with keepers that we've had in the past after Jens Lehmann left. At times this year, his positioning and decisions were a bit off--he still backs off and gets caught in no-man's-land when an opponent is bearing down on him from time to time--but overall, for a 22-year old not named Iker Casillas, you could do much worse. According to whoscored.com, though, he has only weaknesses, so what do I know?
Aidan: Unlike most of Arsenal's players, Wojciech Szczesny got off to an excellent start; the penalty save against Udinese saved Arsenal's participation in the Champions League, while he made crucial saves in jittery moments against Swansea and Bolton. He suffered a dip in form in January that cost Arsenal points; against Fulham and Swansea he could've done much better, and a shoulder injury resulted in a lesser range of motion towards the end of the season. His 4th worst save percentage is cause for concern, but he does face very clear cut chances, and he's excellent on crosses. He's going to be Arsenal's first choice keeper for a long time, and perhaps the best in the Premier League. He just isn't yet.
pdb: In a season that saw Arsenal rollercoaster from bottom to (near) top and hit most stops in between, Wojciech Szczesny was one of the most consistent performers on the team. When Arsenal's defense wandered, which they did oh so often - in fact, I think I just saw them walking down my street - he was generally there to clean up the mess. He may never be the flashiest keeper, he may never grab a lot of headlines, but Arsenal are lucky to have him, and if his shoulder heals and he can start next year uninjured he should become one of the best keepers in the league.