With the exit of Lukasz Fabianski after the FA Cup victory last term, we were left with just one senior goalkeeper in the squad, making it necessary that a goalkeeper would be part of the expected recruits in the summer. The World Cup, among many of the wonderful things it gave the world, was very much a World Cup of goalkeepers. From the sweepings of Manuel Neuer, through the heroics of Tim Howard, to the acrobatics of Guillerhmo Ochoa, teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal who came out of the previous season with the need for reinforcement between the sticks were spoilt for choice. Any of the goalkeepers would have been good enough for any of these teams to purchase going by the standard of their impressive displays. Hence, there were neither whines nor nitpicks amongst fans when Arsene Wenger passed up Claudio Bravo nor Keylor Navas in favour 26 year old Colombian goalkeeper, David Ospina from Ligue 1 side OGC Nice.
A player who has had to make his way through challenging circumstances in his career, Ospina is easily one of the most highly rated goalkeepers in the world, having shown enough promise early on in his development stages. He was a mainstay of the impressive Colombian team who were as good in defence as they were in attack, having conceded only 3 goals in their 5 games. He was solid, composed and commanding in and around his area. He has the platform of the biggest stage in football to impress the world – you wonder if his CV isn’t a shade brighter than Szcezny’s.
Shipping six goals in 4 league games is hardly title winning form, and we cannot put the blame on Woj. He was largely responsible for Arsenal not being already eviscerated within the first 10 minutes in Dortmund. He is not just our first-choice keeper, but an Arsenal fan. He wants to be Number 1 for life, but following several sixes last season, and the way we have continued to be leaky at the back, it may be worth throwing him the challenge of improvement by giving Ospina a chance against Villa on Saturday. He is now strong and ready to make most of the opportunity to be in London.
If we are to get the best out of our squad, there must be competition everywhere, even among the groundsmen. Wenger has shown in the past that he is not afraid to make such bold decisions having dropped the Pole for the Champions League game against Bayern in March of 2013. We saw a better Szeczny after that period of exile, as he saw out a season that culminated in having a deserved share in the Golden Glove award. That said, he still has to clear out some dust from his locker. Poorly timed runs out of his area (leading to corner from which we conceded against Crystal Palace) as well as failed attempts to dribble strikers still mar his status as a confirmed Number 1, and as such, a player of the stature of Ospina will give him a mirror with which he can challenge himself to be better.
As much as Woj is still the undisputed first choice (and I would like for him to remain so), a possibility of power changing hands cannot be ruled out. Ospina’s squad number is the same Szeczny wore before inheriting the Number 1 jersey. He got his chance while other keepers were already established; no reason why David Ospina should not get the opportunity to show what he’s got in his bag. His former manager, Claude Puel, believes he has the capacity to take the Number 1 shirt, what are the odds on Wenger using the Villa game as the litmus test?
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