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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Squad Review Part One - Goalkeepers

Ospina, Cech, Macey

Four blog posts coming up this week reviewing the Arsenal squad and how their individual seasons went. As usual it will be done by position, starting with the goalkeepers and moving through the team to the strikers. Each player who has been involved in a match day 18 across the course of 2015-16 will get a write-up of some sort.

Petr Cech
The only major signing of the summer was obviously installed immediately as first-choice. There was no doubt in the minds of anyone that Cech would be an improvement on the goalkeepers we already had at Arsenal. He kept a clean sheet at Wembley on his official debut against his former team as Arsenal won the Charity Shield. What happened at home to West Ham a week later was as shocking and annoying as it was unexpected, with Cech at fault for both Hammers goals in an opening day defeat. It wasn't long, however, before Cech was showing the best of his form with a stunning save to keep out Benteke in the early season visit of Liverpool. 
Cech impressed me almost all season. He brought an element of control and experience to the back-line and could clearly be heard at times in the stadium organising those in front of him. In the first half of the season there was more confidence in the defence as they seemed assured of the quality of the man behind them. However, there was no doubt that Cech was being kept far busier than he had been for a long time, if ever, in his Chelsea career. Cech won us points throughout the season with some outstanding displays. There was another crucial save just before half-time at home to Man Utd that springs to mind - Arsenal were 3-0 up at the time, but his stop meant there was no chance of a comeback in the second-half. At home to Bayern Munich he was excellent in a famous 2-0 win following his restoration to the Champions League starting XI.
As I said in the season review piece yesterday I feel that, without Cech, we would have been struggling to finish in the top six in the Premier League. However, towards the end of the season there were concerns. I don't know if he was still feeling the injury that kept him out for a few weeks in March but there were noticeable signs of the body starting to creak a little. He was less commanding in general and, of most concern, was the way he was beaten by two identical daisy-cutters down low to his right at home to Palace and away to Man City. A close-season spent at Euro 2016 won't help if he is still carrying a knock, but time waits for no man - I hope we haven't already had the best we can hope for from Cech. Winning the Golden Glove will have served as justification for him in moving on from Chelsea.

David Ospina
If I was Ospina I'd have been feeling a bit aggrieved at the arrival of Cech. He had taken the gloves from Szczesny last season and, to be fair to him, had done very little wrong. Concerns over his size have always been present in my mind - in a team who don't defend well in the air it doesn't often help to have a goalkeeper who is so short. This, of course, was probably well illustrated in the draw at West Ham a few weeks ago - Ospina was far from at fault for any of the goals we conceded, but there is a feeling in my mind that a more physically dominant goalkeeper might have commanded things a little better.
Ospina has suffered a tough season at times. For me he is a fantastic second-choice goalkeeper to have. Frankly he is too good to be a second-choice at a Premier League club and I have no doubt he is likely to move on in this transfer window. He made his season debut at Dinamo Zagreb in the first European Cup game of the season. Like most supporters I couldn't understand signing Cech and then leaving him out of Champions League games. Ospina didn't do much wrong in that game, but was already under pressure. He played a week later at Spurs in the League Cup win and did just fine. However, things were to fall apart for him in the home loss to Olympiacos. He was at fault, woefully so, for the second goal we conceded but took a totally disproportionate amount of blame for the defeat that night. The fact is that his mistake shouldn't much have mattered against such a dismal opposition if only the team had played properly. The other thing, of course, is that Cech should have been playing instead of him. He then was "injured" for a time thereafter and missed the League Cup loss at Sheffield Wednesday which was probably no bad thing for him.
The Colombian was back in the side for the FA Cup and immediately set about restoring his reputation. Cech's injury gave him an unexpected Premier League recall for another game at Tottenham and he made at least one brilliant save to keep us in the match, albeit again lacking the aerial dominance that might have prevented their first goal. 
I like Ospina and I would very much like him to stay at Arsenal. However, we have to respect the fact that a player of his quality wants to play football more regularly. If he does leave then I wish him all the very best.

Matt Macey
The youngster was installed as the third choice goalkeeper once Szczesny and Martinez left on loan. He was part of the first-team squad photo which must have been a great boost to him. It was maybe a surprise to see him ahead of Ryan Huddart who had been on the bench for the first-team at times in the previous season.
Macey has the build you would expect of a goalkeeper and he towers above both Ospina and Cech. His actual on-field opportunities have been restricted to the junior teams despite his inclusion in the first-team squad. He made the bench whenever Cech or Ospina were unavailable but a sign that Arsene Wenger doesn't rate him quite highly enough at the moment was that he didn't get the nod to play at Sheffield Wednesday. In previous years the third choice goalkeeper has played in such circumstances, notably with Mannone and Martinez getting their chance. For Macey it was another watching brief at Hillsborough and that might have served as a small frustration for him. However, training regularly with Cech, Ospina and everyone else in that first-team squad can only have helped him improve. Maybe a loan move is the next step for Macey.

Both Wojciech Szczesny and Emi Martinez went on loan for the season. Szczesny played the whole season at Roma and it is hard to see him being willing to come back as the stand-in for Cech next term. However, the lad is clearly still an Arsenal man as his expert mickey-taking of Tottenham the other week was exceptional. Martinez went to Wolves where he competed with Karl Ikeme for the starting spot. Injury did not help the Argentinian at times but, when he played, he was mostly exceptional for the Molineux team. I would say that he is more likely than Szczesny to be willing to sit on the bench if Ospina goes, but he also might feel the need to move on and make a career as Fabianski and Mannone have at Premier League clubs. Time will tell.

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