Arsenal were coming in to the match against Everton off the back of arguably the most crippling defeat of Arsene Wenger's reign. A reign which in recent years has been typified by the lack of a serious number one. Arsenal have had a host of pretenders in place since the loss of David Seaman in 2003; the one notable exception being Jens Lehman, who played a powerful if temperamental role in both the invincible campaign and the champions league run of 2006.
Such forlorn figures as Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Stuart Taylor and recent man-baby Wojciech Szczesny have presented Arsenal fans with many restless nights. At times the goalkeeping on display has been comical, and for the laughs perhaps we should be thanking Wenger, less so for the hypertension and panicked dreams caused by goalkeeping blunders.
Many could be forgiven for thinking that these problems were coming to a halt as they saw Szczesny put in a bold league debut during the 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford in 2010. This was unfortunately not the case. Szczesny showed much promise during his early days in the Arsenal goal; Unfortunately, much of the "potential" shown has never been fully realised. Several high profile blunders and sub-par performances have led to his place as number one being put under scrutiny. His role on the Arsenal bench was cemented after being caught smoking in the changing rooms. This in the wake of playing a particularly prominent role in the 2-0 loss at Southampton was nothing short of an embarrassment.
The natural replacement? A 6ft Colombian by the name of David Ospina. The Columbian's early Arsenal career has been blighted by a thigh injury; however, he has shown promise since taking over in the Arsenal goal. Ospina was signed in the summer from Nice for around £3million and has looked relative value for money. A bargain in comparison to the £2million paid for Richard Wright from Ipswich Town in 2001: Wright was seen as the long term replacement for Seaman, and would go on to make just 22 first team appearances. It was a struggle to find, but even Wright had "potential" at Arsenal.
Since his introduction to the squad, Ospina has looked an assured shot stopper, with several high profile saves. He has kept clean sheets against Stoke, Man City, Villa and Everton. He was in particularly fine form at the weekend as he made several great stops. Most notably tipping a thunderous effort from Lukaku just over the bar. This is not to say that Ospina has been faultless. He has looked shaky when dealing with almost anything coming into the box. This however brings me to the latest example of goalkeeping "potential" at Arsenal. This was to be found in the 86th minute at The Emirates on Sunday. A whipped ball came in from the left. With just a nervy one goal cushion, rushes of the old anxiety were inevitable, and Arsenal fans would have been forgiven for reaching for the valium. Despite this, Ospina showed no such worry and was more than up for the challenge. He rushed to the near post and punched the ball well clear of danger. Taking a clattering from the onrushing Lukaku in the process.
This is not to say that Ospina has rapidly alleviated this clear weakness in his game. Instead it is to suggest that he has what many at Arsenal will consider a dangerous quality. "Potential". It is too soon to view Ospina as a genuine number one. He does appear to have a certain flair and aggression. At times making him look like Santi Cazorla performing a Manuel Neuer impersonation. A combo which some may relish. I certainly do not.
A lot of work needs to go into Ospina's game when it comes to adjusting to the aerial rigors of the premier league. He needs game time, and arguably an extra couple of inches on top. We will have a much better idea of his true "potential" after a ten day period which includes QPR away and Big Sam's West Ham at home. Szczesny will be expected to retain his cup place at United.
There is a chance that Ospina could be found out as yet another pretender in the Arsenal goal. Let's just hope that if he is, he has the decency to provide us with some Columbian magic ala Rene "Scorpian Kick" Higuita in the process.
By George Marsden
Mean Lean's Response
I find the goalkeeping position really difficult to judge, I always have to be honest. I am just not sure what I am looking at when watching a keeper, well for the most part anyway. So because of this, I tend to go with my gut feelings which granted does not mean very much at all given my knowledge of the position, but I'm going with that for now. I'm not quite sure that betting companies such as betbind.com or Ladbrokes promotional code use gut feelings to make their decisions but hey, I'm sticking to my methods.
David Seaman made me feel the most at ease of any keeper during my Arsenal supporting life. Any cross that was played in our box was enough to make me yawn patting my mouth in the process, such was the effortless way he dealt with high balls. Jens Lehmann was a little like Seaman's crazy cousin, not quite as calming but he was an experienced winner who for the most part was reliable and almost felt like a like charm for us.
At the start of the season a good majority of people were more than happy with two keepers of the stature of Szczesny and Ospina but feelings have changed somewhat.
My view of Szczesny is that he makes me feel comfortable between the sticks, I don't ever feel as if he is about to flap at a ball and allow a tap in at the far post. For what it's worth I am usually pretty calm when he has he ball at his feet and an opposition attacker is running towards him as 99% of times we end up with the ball without any problems. Problem is, Szczesny rarely wins us any points.
I can remember a match winning performance at Anfield a while back, I think our post came in handy that day also but I am struggling to remember too many more. Goals tend to fly past him and it's often difficult to know if he could have done more.
Ospina seems to be the very opposite keeper to Szczesny in the fact that in my opinion he looks like an accident waiting to happen. He has managed to escape a few tricky situations such as the injury time cross he missed at Palace and one in a recent game that I cannot remember now when he clattered into Mertesacker and missed his punch. Yet I feel that Ospina is more likely to make a string of excellent saves to keep us level away from home when we are struggling to find our game.
I still feel more relaxed watching Szczesny in our goal and let's hope he contributes to a clean sheet on Monday evening to force the manager into making a tough decision.
PS - The Your Vision section has had problems with the submission of articles not getting to me. If you have anything you want to get off your chest then send the article to me either via the Contact Us page or directly by email (meanlean[at]arsenalvision.co.uk)