There are few things in sports worse than parents of players who feel the need to speak to the media on behalf of their kids, especially when they've experienced a bad run of form.
Often they thrust themselves into their children's spotlight, and on a few occasions they manage to completely steal the attention away from the exploits on the field of play in order to become part of the story. Often seen, for whatever reasons, in tennis, with examples like Stefano Capriati and Jim Pierce immediately coming to mind. Tiger Woods' started out his pro career with his dad, Earl, casting as big of a shadow as his son by failing to shy away from microphones when they presented themselves.
All of which brings us today to Maciej Szczesny, father of Wojciech.
A former keeper, Maciej understands the scrutiny that his son's currently experiencing following his string of gaffs and errors this season. He also understands, apparently, how to expertly deflect blame away in order to protect Wojciech from mounting criticism that he's taken a large step backwards this season.
According to The Guardian, among other outlets reporting today, Maciej's reasoning for Wojciech's mistakes in Southampton on New Year's Day was down to the "rhinoceros" Per Mertesacker, and Laurent Koscielny's failure to protect the goal:
"He made a mistake for the first [Southampton] goal, coming too far from the goal, but please look at the Arsenal defence – how these guys are playing is a disaster, but for some reason, nobody pays any attention to it," said Szczesny Sr.
Laurent Koscielny should immediately have run [back] to protect Wojciech, and Per Mertesacker should have stood in the goal.
Unfortunately they did not do that and gave him zero support, and in that situation Mertesacker showed the agility of a rhinoceros.
Wojciech is often paying for it [the mistakes], and that he really cares. He needs someone who will critically analyse every game with him, but also remain positive.
Someone should support him but the coaching staff at Arsenal are not doing that; meanwhile the entire defence this season is an embarrassment."
Don't get me wrong, our usual starting four in defense have been inconsistent at best this season, mainly due to injury and lack of cohesion, and there wasn't a better example of that than the Southampton match. It's also fair to say Koscielny did a poor job at containing Sadio Mané leading up to their first goal.
That said, how anyone can point to Koscielny for not running back to protect Szczesny's line as he rushed away from it when Southampton were attacking the goal with support from players is beyond me. Koscielny, after failing to contain Mané, did the right thing and covered the near post, while Mertesacker was probably right in thinking "there's no way he scores from this angle, right?" while still staying close to his marker, dropping back towards the goal line as well.
If Maciej's going to view the perceived failures of Koscielny and the "rhinoceros" Mertesacker with the benefit of hindsight, then I'll do the same: If his son hadn't attempted to duplicate a Manuel Neuer-like effort and stayed in his goal, confident that his captain and his other internationally-capped center back partner could regain their footing with the ball near the goal line, threatening in a position only a miracle shot could provide, he would have simply caught the shot - executed brilliantly by Mané, it should be added - and tossed/kicked it back into play.
This isn't the first time Wojciech's father has criticized Arsenal, with the keeper having to release a statement last season apologizing and distancing himself from his father's opinions. Given the current environment around the club and attention around his poor display this season, coupled with the smoking accusations in the locker room on New Year's Day, it will be curious to see how Wojciech responds this time around, if at all.