Why Szczesny needs Ospina at Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has already completed two pieces of impressive transfer business, but his next foray into the market will be one of his biggest tests.
The Arsenal manager has already brought in a world-class striker in Alexis Sanchez and replaced Bacary Sagna with Mathieu Debuchy, which is another upgrade, judging by the pecking order in the French squad.
- Mangan: Sanchez swoop shows ambition
Arsenal must, however, sign a top-class holding midfielder to push on again next season, as that was their biggest weakness last term. Far too often they didn't have anyone to anchor central areas when the opposition swarmed through their midfield like Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton managed to.
But on top of that comes the need to sign a new keeper to challenge, push and complement current first choice Wojciech Szczesny. It can be incredibly difficult to attract a quality keeper who knows he could end up sitting on the bench. After a lot of scouting and enquiries, I think that signing will be David Ospina, a Colombian who is currently at French club Nice.
Wenger is hoping to complete a 3-million-pound deal for Ospina, and when you contrast that to other targets, that is fantastic value for a keeper who impressed at the World Cup. Ospina has only a year left on his contract at Nice, and that partly explains why he is going so cheap. But at 25 he's the right age, a full international who has played at the top level.
Contrast that to other targets like Cardiff's David Marshall and Reading's promising Alex McCarthy, and it represents great business. Cardiff wanted 10 million for Marshall, and Reading asked 6.5 million for McCarthy.
Norwich keeper John Ruddy was offered to Arsenal at the start of the window but was much more expensive than Ospina, and that put Wenger off. Despite spending 33 million on Sanchez, Wenger likes a bargain, and there are certain positions he doesn't want to blow all his cash on. He has bought some dodgy keepers in the past like Richard Wright and had some brilliant ones like David Seaman (although he inherited him) and Jens Lehmann.
Arsenal have an excellent keeper now in Szczesny, who is young enough to be first choice for a decade but needs good backup and proper competition. Lukasz Fabianski was Arsenal's second choice and Wenger rated him extremely highly, even playing him in the FA Cup final to try to persuade him to stay rather than leave on a free transfer. But however good Fabianski is technically -- and Swansea have themselves a good keeper -- the flaws were still there for all to see.
In extra time of the FA Cup final, Fabianski -- for all his penalty heroics in the semifinal -- nearly undid all of Arsenal's good work by twice making errors to allow Hull the chance to score. Thankfully, from Arsenal's perspective, they didn't take the opportunities.
But it just goes to show that while Fabianski's staying would have been a good solution, it's an area they can strengthen. Szczesny is an excellent keeper and will retain his status as first choice, but I have a theory on keepers.
Behind every really top-class keeper is a good second choice, someone to make sure he can never become complacent.
There are exceptions, of course. Look at Petr Cech. He's been among the best in the world without having competition for a decade. But if you look at Liverpool, they miss good backup for Simon Mignolet, and the same has been true -- until now -- for Joe Hart at Manchester City.
A keeper shouldn't be complacent. Szczesny is likely to have Ospina to push him, and that will be good for both keepers and Arsenal.