David Ospina made his seventh senior appearance of the season during Arsenal’s last-gasp FA Cup victory against Preston and this is the time in the football calendar where the Colombian is expected to play more regularly.
The 28-year-old goalkeeper has played every minute of Arsenal’s Champions League campaign thus far and having drawn Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, it’s like he will be trusted by Arsène Wenger to start against Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
In his first interview of 2017, he stressed the importance of remaining positive throughout the year inside the club’s official matchday programme: “The most important thing is that we have our health, that we can be with the people we love.
“In our job we have to keep working hard and showing what we can do everyday.”
He has been quietly waiting for his opportunity at an extended run-in the side and with tireless reports suggesting he could be close to the exit door, he had this to say about being the first-choice for FA Cup fixtures, “I’ve always said that I want to play as much as possible – that’s what I’m here fighting for. It’s a chance to play in a really important cup competition here in England [FA Cup], so as always I’ll try to give my all.”
He remained unsurprisingly relaxed about Arsenal’s chances of progression into the Champions League quarter-finals despite a tough draw against Bayern saying, “We’re lucky enough to be playing against one of the best teams in the world, but we have an excellent side too. We’re very relaxed – I think we need to focus on doing things well, as we have been doing. We need to analyse the game and look to gain an advantage where possible.”
Manuel Neuer, 30, was excellent when called upon in previous meetings against Arsenal and Ospina had praise for the experienced German too. When questioned about how he rates Neuer as one of the world’s best, “Yeah, I agree with that. I’m a big fan of Buffon but Neuer has proved himself and continues to do so. I’m looking forward to facing him.”
The Colombian was also asked about his thoughts on the Chapecoense tragedy which killed 71 people, including 19 players and staff on November 29 last year. Given the fact the plane crash happened near his hometown of Medellin and they were travelling to face one of his former sides in Atletico Nacional, it makes it all the more sad from his point of view.
He said, “Sadly it was something that affected all of us. It was a terrible tragedy. We all felt that sadness because it was something nobody was expecting. We want to send our strength to the families so they can carry on… it hits you harder because it happened in our country. The team had been doing very well – it was a fairytale story, they’d been in the third division just a few years ago. They did so well to reach the final of an international cup competition. They were fantastic players and we’ll never forget them.”
Ospina’s lack of discipline has lead to needless mistakes in the past but when asked about his perspective on the notion that goalkeepers have to be good with their feet and get more involved with play, he stressed its importance. “As a goalkeeper, you can start an attacking move, so being good with your feet is fundamental in contributing to the team’s play… Goalkeepers are seen as an important part of the play now and I think that’s very important.”
Ospina also revealed the fact that Arsenal do focus on technical skills such as passing and control during goalkeeper training sessions, which is important to note as it shows adaptability to move with the ever-changing tactics which can prove beneficial to help sides in tricky situations.
When asked, he couldn’t pick out one particular performance or save this season from his matches in the Champions League – instead stating the fact that all saves are important. “You try to give the best of yourself in every game, you want to help the team play well and keep a clean sheet. All matches and all saves are special.”
Arsenal’s mentality and ability to win major trophies over the past decade has been severely questioned by critics, especially having shown a tendency to fade away in the latter stages of the season. Despite this though, this quote in particular will prove an encouraging read for all from Ospina, “We need to be aiming to finish top in everything we do. At Arsenal we have everything we need to aspire to that – we’re one of the best teams in the world. We have to aim to win every competition we play in.”