When David Ospina was named in the starting lineup in the Premier League game against Stoke at the weekend my first instinct was that he had been dropped from the Europa League as Wenger got serious about the competition.
The official story is that Petr Cech has a groin injury but Arsene Wenger hopes that he will be back for the game on Thursday. This comment in itself is important because, although Cech was on the bench for the games against Milan, he hasn’t generally been involved in this competition.
Common sense tells you to play your best keeper in the most important game of the season and the double-header against CSKA Moscow is most certainly that.
Not only does Arsenal’s chance to salvage some pride and a trophy from this stinker of a season rest on it but it is also their route to the Champions League with the top four well out of reach due to their Premier League incompetence.
But common sense doesn’t often play a role in Wenger’s team selections and he has form for sticking with the cup keeper incup competitions even when he has the choice of picking a better player.
Ospina did himself no favours against Stoke. Left with little to do he still managed to look like ‘an outfield player thrown into goal’ according to one pundit. It was hard to disagree with that statement.
It’s also hard to imagine Wenger sticking with Ospina if this were a Champions League tie and it’s arguable that the games left for Arsenal in the Europa League are now more important than every Champions League game bar the 2005/6 run.
Cech played in the Premier League because that was the most important competition for the majority of the season.
That honour now belongs to the Europa League.
Cech must play and only sentiment and blinding loyalty will hide that fact from Wenger ahead of his selection on Thursday.