By Nayan Yalavarthy
As the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea for 11 million just awaits confirmation, we take a look at the credibility of the Gunners’ Goalkeepers for the coming season.
Wenger never quite had the opportunity to brag enough about the World Class Goalkeepers he has had. Only David Seaman and Jens Lehmann stand out of all the keepers the Boss has worked with. But now, with the arrival of Petr Cech looking very likely, whom the Frenchman is a long term admirer of, things could change and take a turn for the good for the Gunners.
The current contenders for the number 1 spot between the sticks, barring Petr Cech whose arrival hasn’t been confirmed, are David Ospina, Wojciech Szczesny and Damien Martinez. Damien Martinez, 22, always played as a third choice keeper for Arsenal and started just 4 games for us before going on various spells of loans. The time is on his side.
Wojciech Szczesny, one of the two Poles who was signed from Legia Warsaw in 2007 was identified as a long term prospect for Arsenal with manager Arsene Wenger saying “I really believe in him that he will one day be Arsenal’s number one. He has all the qualities you want from a goalkeeper.” It shows the faith the Manager has in him. He has since carried on to play 132 games for the Gunners and has developed and showed signs of being a World Class keeper.
Coming to David Ospina, who was signed from Nice for 3 million after enjoying a very good run at the World Cup for Columbia, became the No 1 keeper for Arsenal since January after Szczesny was caught smoking in the shower after a 2-0 loss to Southampton. He has performed pretty good since then and remained the first choice keeper till the end of season.
Comparing the scenarios of the Polish and the Columbian International, Ospina came into the team after Szczesny violated the code of conduct and was rightly punished. But the Columbian’s arrival was at a point of time in the season when the rest of the players were making their way back from injuries and the back four really settled down and stepped up the game, which wasn’t the case in the first half of the season where Wojciech had to protect the goal with Per Mertesacker arriving late after an extended holiday and Laurent Koscielny then inuring his Achilles and new-signings Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and left-back nacho Monreal had to fill in at centre-back in their void.
One more important factor was the presence of Coquelin, who was recalled from loan after injuries to Arteta and Flamini. Coquelin, arguably turned out to be the best Defensive Midfielder in the Premier League by stats at the end of the season. He not only had more number of tackles per game but also worked his way through interceptions with his aggressive play and understanding which brought him laurels from club Legend Thierry Henry and many other football Pundits. The Frenchman brought stability to the improving side.
Stats would also show that the Pole faced a lot more shots per game and has more saves per game than the Columbian. Ospina, has a good eye for shots and is more of a ‘Shot-blocker’ who usually stands at goal waiting for his defenders to do their duties. His ability to collect powerful shots and long goal kicks are average. He would block the shot allowing it for a rebound within the box which any top team would usually grasp onto. Whereas, Szczesny has a far better command over the box and collects crosses and powerful shots attempted from outside the box. The pole’s ability to kick the ball long to target man Giroud or even quickly sight a player on the wings and release the ball have seen Arsenal become a threat on counters.
With Cech’s arrival, at least one of them will have to leave and at the moment it seems Ospina is the one who will make the move. The arrival of Petr Cech conveys a message from Arsene Wenger to the keepers asking them to grow and develop their skills amidst a World Class Goalkeeper. But in the long run, it would be Wojciech Szczesny who would eventually take over the Number 1 spot from the latter and carry on the responsibility between the sticks of the club that has invested plenty of years and quality towards his development.