Fourth place is not a successful season, says Arsenal star
22:30 05 May 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny does not regard another fourth-place finish in the Premier League as a successful campaign for the club.
The Gunners are guaranteed fourth spot for the third time in the last four years and go into this weekend’s final league game at Norwich on a four-match winning streak.
That run was extended by Sunday’s 1-0 victory over West Brom at the Emirates but, barring a highly improbable combination of results in the final round of games, Arsenal cannot finish any higher than fourth.
And, despite successfully holding off the challenge of Everton to secure a shot at Champions League football for a 17th successive year, Szczesny admits he would not have settled for that before the start of the season.
“It’s obviously good to finish on a high in front of our fans, but with two games to go we had nothing to play for and I think we should be fighting for the title, so that’s disappointing,” said the Poland international.
“We set out to win the Premier League, but we dropped points and then we probably weren’t even the favourites to finish fourth, so at least we managed to do that for our fans.
“I’d never consider fourth place before this season as a successful position. I play for Arsenal Football Club because I want to win the title every year.
“At some point, if you lose games and you lose the chance to fight for the title, the challenge is to secure a Champions League spot and that was the case this season. But I wouldn’t have taken it before the season.”
Arsenal headed the table for the best part of five months this season, but Szczesny is confident that they can use the experience to construct a more resilient challenge for the Premier League crown next year.
And the 24-year-old was heartened by recording a third straight shut-out against the Baggies, which meant that Arsenal – along with Chelsea – will end the season with the joint best defensive record at home.
In the Gunners’ case, that tally of 11 goals conceded looks particularly impressive considering that three of them were shipped in their first game of the season, against Aston Villa.
“Our defensive record at home has been fantastic and we’ve managed to keep it going throughout the season,” added Szczesny. “Obviously that’s something we can take into next season.
“I hope we can improve our away record because that hasn’t been very good. I’m pleased to finish with another clean sheet, hopefully I can keep one more this season and I’ll end up a happy man.
“I think everyone can say that the squad was strong enough to challenge for the title this year. It didn’t happen for us, but one thing we have learned is that we are strong enough to challenge next year.
“Hopefully we’ll strengthen as well, with maybe a couple of players coming in and, if we manage to keep the consistency for the whole season, we’ll be up there.”
It remains to be seen whether Sunday’s game at Carrow Road turns out to be Szczesny’s final appearance of the season as, after all, the Gunners do still have the pressing matter of the FA Cup final six days later.
Compatriot Lukasz Fabianski has kept goal through Arsenal’s run to the final, conceding just three times in their five ties and saving two spot-kicks to send them through in the semi-final shoot-out against Wigan.
Manager Arsene Wenger has yet to reveal whether he will keep faith with Fabianski, who is set to depart the Emirates this summer, or turn to his first-choice keeper when the Gunners line up against Hull at Wembley Stadium.
“It’s not an easy decision to make because there is a number one at the club and there is a goalkeeper who is the reason we’re in the FA Cup final,” admitted Szczesny.
“I think Lukasz has done so well that he deserves to play in the cup final but, having said that, I’m a professional and I would love to play [as well].”