Thursday 23 April 2015 11:54, UK
David Ospina or Wojciech Szczesny? We compare the statistics for the Arsenal goalkeepers with the help of club legend David Seaman...
Wojciech Szczesny was back in the Arsenal goal for their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last weekend and was partially culpable for Reading’s equaliser as he failed to keep out a Garath McCleary shot. David Ospina can expect to be reinstated for the visit of Chelsea on Sunday with the real intrigue still to come when Arsene Wenger names his team for the FA Cup final next month.
Legendary goalkeeper David Seaman won the FA Cup four times with the Gunners as well as three league titles, a League Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and he has some sympathy for both men. “The only time I’ve been in that situation was when Richard Wright played every round of the FA Cup in 2002 and then Arsene Wenger picked me for the final,” Seaman told Sky Sports.
“It does put pressure on you. Szczesny can play reserve-team football but it’s just not the same with the crowd atmosphere and the rest. At least he’s played a lot of football so he should be able to handle that. He’s played in big games before.”
However, it’s Ospina who has established himself as the first choice, boasting a Premier League win percentage of 92 per cent – better than any other player. “I’ve been impressed by Ospina,” said Seaman, speaking as an ambassador for the 'Know the Score' campaign against bowel cancer. “He’s in his first season and it’s not easy coming to England but he’s done well when the pressure has been on. He’s shown why Arsenal bought him and seems to have great confidence.
“He’s not the biggest of keepers but he’s got that knack of making the goals look small. I like the way he comes for crosses and either punches or catches the ball. Not all keepers do that but he seems to enjoy it. It’s so important that the defence has confidence in you. Whether it’s coming for crosses or sweeping up, the bottom line is that it helps if the defenders know exactly what you’re going to do.”
Whether it's coming for crosses or sweeping up, the bottom line is that it helps if the defenders know exactly what you're going to do.
Unfortunately for Szczesny, that’s precisely the sort of certainty that the Pole has struggled to provide for his team. As well as Ospina’s superior win percentage, the new man is making more saves, catches and punches too. In fact, the Colombian has the best save percentage in the Premier League.
Most impressively, according to Opta, the 26-year-old arrival from Nice is the only regular Premier League goalkeeper not to make a single error leading to a shot this season. Szczesny has made six in just 17 appearances with only Queens Park Rangers’ Robert Green making more (seven in 32).
So where does that leave Szczesny? “Well, it leaves him as Arsenal’s No 2 goalkeeper,” added Seaman. “Whether he’s happy with that situation, I don’t know. Only he could tell you. But from Arsenal’s point of view, they’ve got two good goalkeepers now and that’s important.
“What will be frustrating for Szczesny will be that he’s now out of the team. But Ospina is the slightly more experienced keeper having been to a World Cup with Colombia. From Arsenal’s point of view, it’s a good problem for the club to have.”
While Szczesny’s stock might be low right now, Seaman is reluctant to write the goalkeeper off just yet. Indeed, the Poland international only turned 25 last week. By comparison, Seaman signed for Arsenal at 26, having the opportunity to learn his trade in making over 350 appearances for Peterborough, Birmingham and QPR before joining the Gunners.
“Szczesny deserves time,” said Seaman. “He’s been at Arsenal a long time now and the coaches know what he’s capable of. The problem for him is that goalkeepers are judged by their mistakes and that’s always been the way.
“What I always look for in a goalkeeper is how they react to their mistakes. Do you sulk or do they get out there and continue to play with confidence? When Szczesny made that costly mistake against Birmingham in the League Cup final, he bounced back from it to have the best season of his career so that told me a lot about him.”
Whether Arsenal fans get the chance to find out much more about Szczesny remains in doubt. When asked about the player’s future earlier this month, Wenger said: “At the moment, it is very difficult to answer that question.” The question of who will start for Arsenal against Chelsea on Sunday is rather easier to answer.
Watch Arsenal v Chelsea live on Sky Sports 1 HD this Sunday from 3.30pm
David Seaman supports Know the Score, which raises awareness of bowel cancer through football. To find out more visit www.knowthescore.org.uk or follow @KnowTheScoreUK on Twitter.