When former Chelsea custodian Petr Cech arrived at Arsenal, many observers alleged that he would save Arsenal at least 12-15 point and eventually become what Edwin van der Sar was to Manchester United.
After 33 games between the sticks for the Gunners, he has proven to be worthy of every single penny of the £10 million Arsenal shelled out on June 29. He tops the clean sheet table having managed 15 clean sheets in the Premier League, and only David de Gea, Joe Hart, and Kasper Schmeichel have kept as many.
Despite his phenomenal record, however, his ability to keep out long-range efforts leaves a lot to be desired. No other Premier League ‘keeper has been beaten from outside the 18-yard-box more than him; he has let in 10 goals from outside the penalty area, with Kevin de Bruyne’s goal at Etihad Stadium last Sunday being the latest installment.
His heroics has saved Arsenal’s day on many an occasion, including home games against Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Stoke City, but his minor shortcomings cast doubts over his long-term future with the club.
Can the unappreciated Colombian fill his shoes?
Even if the Czech Republic continues to be the first-choice shot-stopper next season, the same cannot be said about the seasons after that, as he would be 35 by the end of next campaign; accordingly, keeping an able deputy who could help the team cope with his absence in the pipeline is imperative.
Much to Arsenal’s luck, they already boast the perfect successor in second-string ‘keeper David Ospina.
The Colombian ‘keeper, whenever Arsenal’s number 33 was sidelined or dropped, had been phenomenal at the back, keeping four clean sheets in 12 outings; Wenger’s men have avoided defeat on 75% of the games in which he guarded the goal.
Although he committed unforgivable gaffes against Olympiakos that almost cost his side their place in the Champions League knockout stages, he has compensated those with impressive displays in the subsequent appearances.
His rival Wojciech Szczesny has shown no signs of improvement whilst on loan at Roma as he continues to be unreliable. Concentration remains a major concern, and his discipline off the pitch has also not improved. As the Pole is just one year younger than he is, it is easy to conclude who the readier footballer is.
In addition, another competitor Emiliano Martinez lacks the Premier League experience to be thrown into the mix in the near future.
Will Arsenal unearth a David Ospina upgrade in the market?
Football clubs hardly ever flog their top goalkeepers; it is not a wonder that Arsenal were unable to prevent Manuel Almunia from starting league games for them.
Finding an Ospina upgrade will require Steve Walsh degree of scouting as he has proved to be a world-class goalkeeper — at least according to the Arsenal manager — on the international stage as well as club football.
Arsenal have a bird in the hand and none in the bush . Letting the former Nice ‘keeper go can prove costly as he is already Premier League ready and has at least half a dozen years of top level football under his belt.
If retaining his services will require the promise of increased first-team action, so be it.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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