Earlier this week, Arsene Wenger claimed that he has two world class keepers in Petr Cech and David Ospina. Our resident goalkeeping expert, Helen Trantum, disagrees.
Arsene Wenger recently used those two words to describe goalkeeper David Ospina. But I only need one.
Or perhaps ‘Monaco’?
Or if you really insist on having two, I’ll plump for ‘Total liability.’
I should be clear, I’m not Ospina’s biggest fan.
He’s a great shotstopper – when the ball is in his area – but that’s where the praise ends.
He has a glaring issue which undermines the rest of his game, namely his height.
For the general population, six foot tall is a perfectly acceptable stature. However, for a Premier League goalkeeper it is not only below average, but it makes our Colombian stopper the joint shortest.
So why is that a problem?
A small package
Being a short goalkeeper means that aerial dominance is harder to come by. No surprise that we frequently see Ospina flap at high balls then.
A short body also corresponds to short arms, which is why he is not as effective when the ball is placed in the corner. His reactions and shot stopping are right up there when the ball is within his reach. The reality is that his reach is smaller than that of most of his competitors.
Good things come in small packages, goes the saying, but Ospina is far from great.
There are other problems too.
Ospina doesn’t try to come for things in the air, and nor does he race from his line to clear danger along the ground. The statistics will tell you that he makes very few errors as a result – he doesn’t try to get his teammates out of trouble – yet that actually leaves Arsenal more exposed.
Courtois, Lloris, and de Gea are widely regarded as the best in the league.
All three regularly come long distances to collect a cross, or charge out of their areas to clear danger. Manuel Neuer is another renowned for being more of a sweeper than a keeper. When you play a high line, that additional line of defence is invaluable.
All of those players will make mistakes in the process, but they will save many more goals through their endeavours than they cost. It’s not as if Ospina doesn’t make mistakes anyway.
Finally, my biggest bugbear: his kicking.
It’s a struggle for our Colombian to clear halfway, which invites pressure straight back onto our defence.
He’s a solid keeper for a number two, and looking around the league very few clubs have two international standard goalkeepers, unsurprising given the lack of rotation we usually see in that position.
However, he is ONLY good enough to be a number two, the type of player who can fill a gap in the short term but who would leave you nervous for a longer period.
He nearly cost us progress from our Champions League group last year, and he definitely cost us progress from the Round of 16 the previous season (with some assistance from Mertesacker).
Clearly we have offered a guarantee of cup games to keep him, and that’s understandable since he’s a perfectly serviceable number two. Let’s hope that when the competition gets to the business end, that doesn’t cost us though.
Bottom line is: Ospina is OK, but Arsene is dreaming if he thinks he’s world class.
You cannot make it true, Arsene, simply by saying so.
More’s the pity.