20 July 2014

Let's invite Ospina warmly. Khedira? Be more stand-offish...

Apologies, first of all, for going silent for the last few days. My sister got married this weekend, which afforded too many distractions and imbibements for me to get to the blog. She's off to Costa Rica, where I'm sure she'll see how Joel Campbell is doing and report back post-haste. Closer to reality, if only marginally, we seem to be edging closer and closer to signing keeper David Ospina, who sparkled at the World Cup for Colombia and did the same for Nice in Ligue 1. There are the infamous suggestions about "personal terms" with the keeper, with further details that we could bring him on for as little as £3m, which would be a fantastic bit of business. At the other end of things, financially if not feasibly, the Khedira saga drags on with no indication that his camp have budged from demands for a weekly wage of something close to £190m. Just what the hell's a club supposed to do?

Let's get the unpleasantries out of the way early, shall we? Khedira is a very, very good player (some might even anoint him as "world-class"), but it's hard to believe that he's worth the close-to £200m per week he might cost us. Even if Morgan Schneiderlin would prefer to follow Pochettino to the wrong side of London, and even if we seek a defensive midfielder, I don't want us forking over that kind of cash for an older, still-coming-back-from-ACL-surgery player. I'd much rather sit Jack Wilshere down on a folding chair with a bare light-bulb swaying above him while various former Gunners lunge from the darkness to convince him that he simply must become the club's next, great, defensive midfielder. If a creative, attacking type like Arteta can be converted to play more-defensively and at a more-advance age, so to can Wilshere. Putting it another way, should we invest heavily in a player who may need a season or more to adjust to the Prem (such as Khedira), or should we ask a player already adjusted to the Prem to commit to a position? That's a topic to investigate in more depth...

For now, the apparent topic topic du jour is our pursuit of David Ospina. Arsenal can already boast of being one of the world's best for keepers, as discussed here, and the rising star that is Ospina could add to that reputation. With the departures of Mannone and Fabianski, we need another keeper—with apologies to David Martinez, who starred as the villain in the 7-5 win over Reading. Ospina seems to fit the bill nicely. He turned in a star performance for Colombia, and a quick run-down of his resumé suggest that this is a keeper every bit as sharp as Szczesny and perhaps hungrier. I love the Woj as much as anyone, but we all know that he needs someone to hold his feet to the fire because he sometimes lacks a fire of his own. Ospina can offer that fire. He may lack the seniority of Casillas, for example, but he can more than hold his own.

For Nice, he turned in a stellar season. Playing for a club that scored less than a goal per game, he almost single-handedly staved off relegation. Nice finished in 17th place in Ligue 1, just two points from relegation. However, if you look at goals conceded, Nice leaps to 10th place in Ligue 1, due largely if not entirely to Ospina's efforts. With him between the sticks, Nice conceded just 44 goals on the season, level with 5th-placed Lyon, and might have done even better were it not for the five lamentable appearances made by Lucas Veronese, who in his five appearances conceded 15 goals while making one-thirds the saves that Ospina did. Put another way, if Ospina had started instead of Veronese while conceding less than a goal-per-game, Nice might have finished comfortably mid-table instead of scrambling to avoid relegation.

Speaking of stats and saves and so on, it might be worthwhile to compare Ospina to Szczesny, to get a better sense of what Ospina might offer and to what degree he might challenege Szczesny for the starting role. According to squawka, Szcz made 1.95 saves per goal conceded. Not bad. However, contrast that with Ospina, who made 3.39 saves per goal conceded. Ospina faced nearly double the number of shots on goal that Szczesny did while conceding far less often than Szczesny did (25 to 41). I'm not about to parse each goal to assess which of these each keeper "should have" saved. Suffice it to say that signing Ospina wouldn't just offer us solid support behind Szczesny; it might result in a duel to see who's the best, a duel that benefits the club as a whole.

I know that, to some degree, I've tried to have it both ways with this post. I've defended Wilshere against the intrusion of Khedira while offering Szczesny in sacrifice to the arrival of Ospina. It's hard work splitting the difference between love for the club and admiration of the squad, and I'll leave it at that until the transfer-window shuts...