Like some sort of anti-hero suit, whoever dons the Arsenal goalkeeping jersey seems to lose any sense of decision-making, command, communication or skill. Whether it is Manuel Almunia or Lukasz Fabianski, they are likely to fall victim to the intense pressure and scrutiny that they now face on a daily basis (as I myself am doing as I write these words). There is a target who the club approached, who subsequently turned them down out of loyalty to his current employers; not the Irishman on the Eastlands bench, or the aussie beach-bum in West London, but a Mr Krzysztof Dowhań. The coach has been brought to my attention by Michał Zachodny, who wrote an excellent article about the man HERE.
He is nearly as anonymous as his name would lead you to believe, but Dowhań is the current goalkeeping coach at Legia Warsaw, and just after the Gunners signed Fabianski, they tried to tempt his old coach to follow him to London. Dowhań was tempted, but ultimately decided that his heart remained in Warsaw, and that there was still work to be done.
The Polish national team have never been the most feared side in world football, and by the same token haven’t churned out a huge amount of talent to the top leagues. They do have however, have a decent record in producing goalkeepers. With Fabianski at Arsenal is the, in my opinion, more exciting Wojciech Szczęsny. Manchester United have Tomasz Kuszczak, Celtic employed the services of Artur Boruc before his move to Fiorentina, and Liverpool’s most recent Champions League victory included a memorable performance form Jerzy Dudek. All of the above have worked with Dowhań at some point in their career.
Having never made it as a professional himself, Dowhań began coaching at a relatively young age and hasn’t stopped since. He has adapted his own style of coaching with an emphasis on enjoyment, and easing pressure out of situations to maximise concentration. Those that have come under his tutelage have only the highest praise for him.
Maciej Szczęsny, father of Arsenal’s current understudy, and a former Polish international keeper himself (for anyone wondering, he is also the only player to win the Polish league with three different clubs) said of Dowhań:
“At 33, with the majority of career behind me, I didn’t think I could learn anything new. That is until I trained with Dowhań.”
Arsenal’s current goalkeeping coach, Gerry Peyton, has been at the club since 2003. After the particular relationship shared by David Seaman and Bob Wilson which was such a fruitful success, there may have been a problem filling that void. Jens Lehmann was a very good goalkeeper, clearly erratic at times, and obviously mad, but very good none the less. Since his departure, a problem has existed.
Under Dowhań, Fabianski was considered arguably the brightest light in young goalkeepers across the continent. At the moment his confidence is shot, and what may have done him the power of good was having his friend, and mentor with him when moving to a new country, new league and new challenge in his life, all at the age of 22.
Maybe there is now an argument for the club to try and lure Dowhań once more, even on a part-time basis? The goalkeepers I have mentioned above have all made mistakes, but their form was far better under Dowhań, and attracted their big moves in the first place. Perhaps it is merely a pipe-dream, and a solution that is, in all reality, not that feasible. For Arsenal, they have two young Polish keepers who flourished under a former teacher, and it is potentially much cheaper to acquire his skills in some form, rather than shell out on an expensive replacement. Wenger has publicly backed his keepers in blind vehemence; this could be a far more discreet, and in-house solution to a problem he, deep down, knows exists.