The best thing for Wojciech Szczesny to do after taking over in goal for Gigi Buffon was easy to identify: not be a problem. It’s not exactly easy to take over the starting spot — and take over the No. 1 jersey — at a club like Juventus, but it’s especially a tough situation to take over for the greatest to ever play his position like Buffon is.
A little less than two years after he took over for the GOAT, Juventus has confirmed just about what everybody has thought for months now: Szczesny has done about as good of a job in goal replacing Buffon as he could have done.
The reward for the Polish goalkeeper is a contract extension through the 2023-24 season, a deal that Juventus announced on Tuesday. Based on performance, Szczesny — whose previous deal that was signed in the summer of 2017 and ran through 2021 — was about as deserving as anybody on Juve’s roster of getting a contract extension. Then you add the form he’s been on for essentially the last two seasons with the context of what he’s had to do it under and you have a goalkeeper like Szczesny who is arguably playing the best ball of his career as his 30th birthday approaches in a couple of months.
Szczesny has flourished in goal ever since he first came to Italy and played on loan with Roma. He is one of Juventus’ more consistent players these days, and one of the more reliable players that is starting the vast majority of the games played. Some worried that his history of mistakes during his Arsenal days will catch up with him in Turin once he became the regular starting goalkeeper, but that hasn’t been the case. Szczesny, for the most part, has eliminated said mistakes and has seen his overall form continue to be at a high level.
Some stats from Juve’s announcement of the Szczesny extension:
Since his arrival, he has recorded the best percentage of clean sheets in relation to the matches played: 46% (28 out of 61). In recent years, he has conceded an average of 0.7 goals per game in Serie A, the lowest ratio taking into account the goalkeepers with at least five appearances.
Those might not be Buffon kind of numbers from the Antonio Conte era or the beginning of Max Allegri’s tenure as Juve manager, but that’s still pretty good. We know how in flux Juventus’ defense has been the last two seasons, and to have a reliable goalkeeper like Szczesny has become is quite the refreshing sight when you think about some of the problems currently haunting the Juve roster.
I know Szczesny didn’t completely win people over when he first signed. But after 2 1⁄2 years of really good football, I tend to think that opinion of Juve’s still-new No. 1 has changed for the better. And, Tek did it the way he goes about a lot of things — quietly as he lets his play in goal do most of the talking.