The 2016/17 Premier League season (RIP former title sponsor Barclays) is upon us. In eleven days, Arsenal will host Liverpool in the season opener. Eleven days!
To prepare for the upcoming campaign, The Short Fuse will be previewing the Gunners’ strengths and weaknesses around the pitch, as well as taking a look at some players who have massive seasons ahead of them. The first of these previews takes a look between the sticks at Arsenal’s goalkeeper situation.
As far as the Arsenal depth chart goes, this position is far and away the most set in stone. Petr Cech may not have the No. 1 jersey (yet?) but he certainly is Arsenal’s undisputed No. 1. The Czech stopper had a good season last year overall, his first with the club after transferring from London rivals Chelsea. He led the Barclays Premier League in clean sheets and thanks to a Championship Sunday shutout, he was the sole recipient of the Golden Glove Award.
However, his season was not perfect. From the outset, as Cech flailed away a goal in the season opener against West Ham, it seemed unlikely John Terry’s twelve-point swing prediction would come true. He had a disconcerting tendency to let in shots at his near post and allowed a worrying amount of goals from outside the box.
When considering his entire body of work last season though, it’s hard to dispute that he put one of the best seasons of any Arsenal goalkeeper in at least a decade or so. His shot-stopping ability kept Arsenal in many matches they attempted to blow. Cech seems like an intelligent and hard-working individual. He knows where he struggled last season and I would be surprised to see him repeat those mistakes at the same level this year. At 34 years of age, Arsenal should have at least another season or two of peak Cech to look forward to.
Firmly entrenched as Cech’s deputy is David Ospina. Last season, Ospina was granted cup matches, including the Champions League, as a peace offering after Cech’s purchase led to his demotion. That, erm, did not work well. His poor play in the initial group stage matches handicapped the Gunners, leading to yet another 2nd place finish and Round of 16 match-up with an elite European side. While his subsequent performances last season were the Gunners were largely solid, at times very good, he never overcame the ignominy of the Olympiakos error.
After a summer of links to clubs such as Besiktas, it appears Ospina is here to stay for at least one more season. He’s coming off a fantastic summer for the Colombian side as he was far and away the best goalkeeper in the Copa America Centenario. He’s always been a fantastic shot-stopper, it’s everything else about his game which has concerned Arsenal supporters. It seems likely Ospina will start FA Cup and Capital One Cup matches, but little else, barring injury to Cech.
Likely third-string/loan possibility is Emiliano Martinez. The youngster was on loan last season at Wolverhampton, firmly entrenched in a battle for the starting role there until a thigh injury sidelined him in December. Another loan seems very likely for Emi.
Arsenal technically still have their No. 1, Wojeich Szczesny still on the roster, but a permanent move to Roma, or a loan deal with an option to buy, seems inevitable at this point.
Youngsters Matt Macey, Hugo Keto, and Dejan Iliev are not near ready for first-team action and should only be used in “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” scenarios.