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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Szczesny or Fabianski: Who should be Arsenal's number one for the FA Cup Final?


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Arsene Wenger faces a huge battle on his hand to clinch fourth place this season, but he also has a massive decision to make ahead of the FA Cup Final on May 17. Does he stick with Fabianski, the man who performed heroics in the penalty shoot out against Wigan in the semi-final, or does he replace him with Szczesny, his number one shot stopper?

Both Szczesny and Fabianski have produced the goods for the Gunners this season. Goalkeeping errors, which were at one time commonplace at the Emirates, have been few and far between over the past few months and both Polish shot stoppers have been reliable when called upon.

Szczesny has established himself as Wenger's number one for league and Champions League games, while Fabianski has been given the nod in cup games. 

For some this is a no-brainer. Fabianski has been the man for Arsenal in the cups all season and he should be rewarded for his efforts with a day out at Wembley. However, there are others who believe if Arsenal are to finally end their nine-year trophy drought they need their number one keeper between the sticks.

Fabianski has played nine times for Arsenal this season; twice in the Capital One Cup, twice in the Champions League (v Bayern Munich) and five times in the FA Cup. Despite guiding Arsenal to the FA Cup Final with his penalty exploits against Wigan, Fabianski has only managed to keep two clean sheets during that run - v Spurs and Coventry. 

It would be a cruel blow by Wenger to deny Fabianski the chance to play in an FA Cup Final, but it may be the right one if they were to finally pick up some silverware.

Szczesny has hardly put a foot wrong this season and has kept an impressive 19 clean sheets. He is only 24 but Szczesny has now represented Arsenal more than 130 times. Considering goalkeepers do not traditionally mature until they are in their 30s, Szczesny is fast-tracking his way to becoming a solid shot stopper.

The young Pole, who joined Arsenal from Legia Warsaw in 2008, has come on leaps and bounds over the past few seasons. While there was no doubt that he had talent, questions were raised over his concentration levels, decision making and ability in the air. So far this season he has silenced all those critics. Nobody would love to see Arsenal win silverware more than Szczesny himself, but would it be right for him to replace his pal in the biggest game of Arsenal's season?

Hull City will go into the final as huge underdogs. They have never played in an FA Cup Final before, but the Tigers will leave everything on the pitch as they go out to replicate Wigan's dream from last season. Steve Bruce's men, who they face today in a dress rehearsal, would love to beat Arsenal. Not only would it create more history on Humberside, it would also see them qualify for the Europa League as cup winners and not having to start in the qualifying section as runners-up in July.

It's a tough call to make. Szczesny is obviously the main man around the Emirates, but Fabianski has been the one to take Arsenal to the final. 

Personally, I'd play Szczesny. It's harsh on Fabianski, but you need your best 11 out on that pitch and I believe Szczesny would bring that little bit more assurance and composure to Arsenal's defensive line.

But if you were in Wenger's shoes, what would you do?

Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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