We are delighted to welcome another new columnist to GT. Andrea Rosati is an Italian Gunner residing in Switzerland and will add to the German and French European Arsenal perspective on Wednesdays.
Hello there! I’m new in town, is there any room for my column? It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to interact with so many fellow Gooners and for my first piece I would like to share with you my view on one of the most recurring topics in recent years: goalkeepers at the Arsenal.
What we all endured during what seemed to be an everlasting nightmare as known as The Manuel Almunia Reign left some irremediable wounds in each of us – I run hiding myself in the closet each time a football floats towards the box, no matters who is playing – but since the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny, things have improved a lot. Sure, we had to go through the Carling Cup final, the infamous night in Oporto with Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks and some other horror shows but, overall, we are not made to look ridiculous anymore.
Much credit must be given to Wojciech Szczesny himself as well as Arsène Wenger’s work with him and his compatriot Lukasz Fabianski, who went from Flappyhandski to the reliable second-choice goalkeeper who helped us to lift the FA Cup last season. The situation looked settled until the latter decided not to renew his contract and leave the club in search for regular football, which resulted in tabloids starting to link the Arsenal with a move for every goalkeeper in the goalkeeper in the world – most of the time for ridiculous amount of money: David Marshall, Iker Casillas, Guillermo Ochoa, John Ruddy all made an appearance on the famous Arsène Wenger’s wish list.
The choice fell on David Ospina, Colombian goalkeeper playing for OGC Nice in France and available for as little as £4m, who should become a Gunner by Thursday.
I am quite surprised.
I expected Arsène Wenger to go for a very experienced goalkeeper who would be happy to play domestic cup games and be a kind of older brother figure to Wojciech Szczesny, something that David Ospina is not – definitely not.
The Colombian is only one year older than Woj and is not coming to London to warm the bench, that’s for sure; nor – I hope – he’s a greedy professional happy to fill his pockets with the supposedly much improved wages he will get at the Arsenal compared to OGC Nice, where is believed to be on £30k per week: David Ospina is coming to be the first-choice goalie and has the qualities to do that, which is what surprises me the most.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with this signing and with the fact that Arsène Wenger wants real competition for every position but I am a bit worried about Wojciech Szczesny: the Pole fought hard to get his status of first-choice goalkeeper and David Ospina’s arrival seems to mix cards once again – leaving the goalkeeping spot on the balance.
I feel like Arsène Wenger is still not 100% sure about Wojciech Szczesny and wants to keep him under pressure, which could either be a good move or a bad move. On one hand that could push Wojciech to improve even more, on the other hand that could hamper his progression, shall the Colombian take his place. It’s always tricky to manage goalkeepers as you need to provide the defensive line with stability by choosing a regular starter but also keep your shot-stoppers on their toes to prevent any complacency, I am afraid the situation could be even more difficult to handle with two very similar goalkeepers both willing to play week in, week out.
Despite the fact that many were painting Lukasz Fabianski as he were a kind of superhero after the game against Wigan, the hierarchy was absolutely clear at the Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny was the number one and Lukasz Fabianski was there to keep the pressure on his fellow Polish teammate. Despite fierce competition from his rival, the former knew (and we all knew as well) he had the full trust from the manager. I am not sure it will be the same this year. He has not the quiet, hard-working-but-less-talented understudy in front of him any longer, now there’s an experienced, motivated, highly-rated goalkeeper seriously battling for the position. How will this affect Wojciech Szczesny’s game?
Neither of them will accept sitting on the bench, that’s for sure. Wojciech Szczesny already threatened Arsenal to leave if he were not trusted to be the 1st choice and the newcomer will soon want out should he play only ten games per season. There is a real risk that, in one year’s time, we could be either trying to sign another 2nd choice goalkeeper or losing Wojciech Szczesny – which would be a disaster in my humble opinion.
I witnessed Gianluigi Buffon’s debut and first season in Parma and I am not afraid to say that Wojciech Szczesny reminds me of him a lot; same unbelievable reflexes, same strong personality, same fearless attitude and same imposing physical presence. I firmly believe Woj can follow the same path; I would hate to see him become THAT good elsewhere than at the Arsenal.