As many of you know, I’ve been at this for several years, offering my praise, criticism and half baked ideas about Roma from the comforts of my home. Throughout those years, few players have made my blood boil like Wojciech Szczesny, save perhaps Seydou Doumbia or Victor Ibarbo, but I mean, come on, they were atrocious. While I first viewed Szczesny’s acquisition as a necessary evil for one season—biding Roma time until they could bring Lukasz Skorupski fully into the fold—it quickly morphed into outright scorn, as I vented my matchday frustrations in the form of sarcastic Tweets at Szczesny’s expense. While I can’t fully explain it—he just seemed too passive for my taste—I couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t the long-term solution.
Well, here is my confession: I’ve had a dramatic change of heart. Never before have I reversed course quite like this at CdT; Woj has simply been stellar this season, bailing out Roma with miraculous saves, steady play and few, if any, glaring mistakes. With so much upheaval in the defense this season, Szczesny’s steady play was a rock, congealing Roma’s patchwork defense around his guiding hand.
But, you may have heard of this fellow we affectionately refer to as the Brazilian Don Draper, Roma’s 24-year-old Brazilian backup keeper Alisson Becker. Purchased over the summer for the relatively hefty fee of €7.5 million, Alisson seemed content to hone his craft on the training pitch for one season, seldom if ever lodging a complaint about his lack of playing time.
With visions of Alisson’s handsome mug steering Roma to glory, Szczesny’s career with the Giallorossi seemed destined for a quick conclusion, but then something remarkable happened. By any estimation, Szczesny has been one of, if not the, best keepers in the league this season. Yes, even better than Saint Gigi.
All of this has, of course, led many to speculate that turning the keys over to Alisson next year may not be the foregone conclusion it once was. Over the summer, while Roma was negotiating another one-year loan with Arsenal, they reportedly slipped in a €16 million buyout clause, one that would, obviously, end any uncertainty about Woj’s future.
Were that the case, Roma would suddenly have roughly €23.5 million worth of keepers on their roster, but those aren’t the contracts or financial figures that may ultimately decide Szczesny’s future.
With both Petr Cech and David Ospina’s contracts expiring in 2019, Arsenal has a decision to make sooner or later—one would imagine they wouldn’t want to go into the summer of 2018 with no first choice keeper under contract for more than one year—so Szczesny’s future may ultimately rest in how much faith Arsenal has in Cech as he creeps towards his late thirties.
What this all means for Alisson’s future is anyone’s guess. He certainly didn’t come to Rome to ride the pine, but Szczesny has long since cemented his claim on this position, leaving Roma in a bit of a pickle; having a sudden glut at a position that has vexed them for several years.
Over the past few days, in the context of stocking the midfield and wings, we’ve talked a lot about how much Roma can and should allot to their bench. While it’s a tough formula to figure out, we can rest assured, they probably can’t afford to devote that much money to two keepers, particularly when the backup seldom seems the pitch.
And while this would seem to point to Szczesny being shown the door, don’t be so sure. Roma is most assuredly built to win now, and throwing the inexperienced Alisson behind a pretty star studded lineup may not be the best course of action for a club desperately trying to usurp the Old Lady.
It’s an unenviable position for Roma, and even Arsenal, but it may be the story of the summer, as four keepers fates twist in the wind.