Wojciech Szczesny was signed in the summer of 2017 as Juventus’ backup goalkeeper and possible heir to the No. 1 shirt. At the time, it was a good signing and a luxury to have a rotation keeper of Szczesny’s quality backing up Gianluigi Buffon. While some predicted or hoped a bit too optimistically that Gianluigi Buffon had more than a year left in his Juventus career, he departed the club at the end of the season and eventually signed with Paris Saint-Germain, leaving Szczesny to be the first person up to try and fill the Buffon-sized hole left behind.
This may have been a slightly less challenging task had Juventus not gone and signed the best player in the world, thus becoming one of the favorites to win the Champions League in the process.
Either way, a new starting goalkeeper was needed and Szczesny was more than ready to play the role. But I don’t think Juventini were ready to see anyone take the number of the man they loved and trusted for so many years.
Mattia Perin was also signed during the summer mercato and maybe his presence took some pressure off Szczesny. Regardless, it was Szczesny who received the No. 1 jersey after playing for the club for just over a year. As any new starter in a Juventus team, praise will be hard to come by at least until the throbbing hearts of Juventini can be won over. While this is fair and expected from such a demanding and loyal fanbase, the scrutiny that Woj has faced this season is not only unwarranted but unfair. Especially when considering Szczesny is a fairly new Juventus player attempting to take over the role of one of the club’s most beloved players of all time.
This season, Szczesny has played nearly every game and has made few mistakes. However, the most critical of Juventini haven’t wasted any opportunity to challenge his legitimacy as Juve’s No. 1. What these critics aren’t considering or not considering enough is the difficulty of this job Szczesny has. While I believe goalkeepers are underappreciated in general, Juventus has been spoiled in this department with one of the greatest of all time. Given this, I understand that any keeper wouldn’t have been openly accepted by Juventini, especially just months after Buffon’s departure. But if Szczesny hasn’t won over the respect and trust of every Juventus fan after this great season he is having, I don’t know if he ever will. Just in this first half of the 2018-19 campaign he has proven that he is a world class goaltender and more than worthy of the Juventus number one jersey.
It’s easy to criticize keepers for the collective mistakes of the team or defense. Juventus tends to make things harder than it has to be and everyone copes with stress differently. But don’t lay into Szczesny to release the stress that is supporting Juventus. I want to say that there are plenty of other areas to complain about in the team, but at this point in the season there really isn’t much to hate about this Juventus side, so here’s to hoping it stays this way.
Szczesny is a top-tier goalkeeper and if he wasn’t, Juventus wouldn’t have signed him in the first place. he has had some amazing moments and truly fantastic games since he arrived in Turin. The standout save from last season being the last-minute stop on a Patrik Schick breakaway to preserve a win over Roma. Ironically, two of my favorite saves from this season came from both games against Valencia — the first being the penalty stop at the death, at the Mestalla, to keep a clean sheet; the second being in the reverse fixture in Turin, an acrobatic one-handed stop that surely saved the game and clinched Juve a spot in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Szczesny isn’t Gianluigi Buffon, but he’s Juventus’ starting keeper and he’s proven that he is more than capable of the job. And I absolutely shouldn’t be alone in being proud of having Wojciech Szczesny as Juventus’ keeper. Because whether the critics talk or not, he’ll be in net, making saves and anchoring the defense as long as he’s wearing the No. 1 jersey at Juventus.