There was always a hint of inevitability about the news that has broke this week, with Serie A side Roma reportedly keen to sign Wojciech Szczesny on a permanent basis when his current loan spell at the Stadio Olimpico expires.
If the news is true, £14m is a hopeful bid by Luciano Spalletti – especially given Szczesny’s progress in recent seasons and his Premier League experience. Both of those things mean he’d be expected to fight for his place as Arsenal’s undisputed number one goalkeeper once he returns to north London.
Roma themselves have Alisson (24) and Bodgan Lobont (38) in their first-team ranks as goalkeeping alternatives to the Polish international and will be first to identify the importance of a reliable backline in their quest for domestic glory.
Juventus are four points clear at the summit with a game in hand over the Giallorossi but after a hard-fought away victory over Genoa on Sunday, they’ll be eager to extend their impressive run: they’ve only lost twice in the league since their 3-1 defeat to Torino in late September against the leaders themselves and surprise package Atalanta in November.
Roma have the likes of Szczesny and Kostas Manolas to thank for their assured performances at the back. Since their defeat against Torino, they’ve only conceded nine goals in 13 matches and kept five clean sheets during that time.
What makes Roma’s interest all the more plausible is the fact that Szczesny, who has been keen in the past to stress his eagerness to return to Arsenal, only has 18 months left on his existing contract and will ultimately want first-team assurances – something that is proving tough to juggle for Arsène Wenger with David Ospina at the moment.
Szczesny has been a consistent performer for Roma when it has mattered, and his stats this term prove just that. With 52 saves, seven clean sheets, a distribution accuracy of 81% and no individual errors leading to goal, it’s been a memorable campaign on a personal level for the 26-year-old thus far.
The initial loan move was seen as a positive one for both parties and has allowed him to thrive quietly, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see his performances under scrutiny once more as Arsenal supporters collectively prepare to decide whether he’s worth keeping now as a good shot-stopper with plenty of years left at the top of his game, or he’s unreliable and worth cashing in while there is a good chance to find a suitable long-term replacement.
Petr Cech has struggled to perform to a consistently high level this season and has already been criticised for it, something that Szczesny will no doubt be looking to take full advantage once he returns, but it begs the question: what will happen to the other goalkeepers if Wojciech stays?