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David Ospina and the importance of this World Cup

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The Colombian’s club career hinges on this tournament.

Colombia v Japan: Group H - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The announcement of Bernd Leno’s arrival at Arsenal raises many questions over the future of our back-up keeper David Ospina. Since signing for Arsenal in 2014, Ospina has failed to make his case for being selected as our first-choice keeper, and has almost actively campaigned against himself via some high-profile blunders. He might be a decent alternative to use in domestic tournaments and the Europa League, however, the arrival of Leno makes Ospina’s first-team claim pretty much null and void.

Reports indicate he is eyeing a move away from The Emirates, but his destination will largely depend on his performance during the rest of this World Cup with Colombia. His first performance against Japan on Tuesday was a very Ospina-esque bit of a mixed bag. After Carlos Sanchez Moreno’s third minute red card, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Colombia. Ospina tried his best to hold his own and made some solid saves, but he was ultimately left wrong-footed after a 73rd minute corner which resulted in Yuya Osako scoring the winner for Japan. He will want to make some big saves (and avoid making some big mistakes) during the rest of Colombia’s games if he wants to attract the attention of quality clubs, just like he did with Arsenal four years ago.

This is the second consecutive World Cup that Ospina has been the first choice keeper for Colombia. In Brazil four years ago, he conceded only four goals and made it to the quarter-finals of the tournament; the deepest World Cup run in Colombian history. It was a performance that was, arguably, the pre-cursor for Arsene Wenger pursuing his signature, which he secured just weeks after the World Cup for only £3million. Furthermore, during Colombia’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup, Ospina conceded the fewest amount of goals in the entire CONMEBOL qualifying competition.

But, unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well at Arsenal. He can be proud of winning two FA Cups during his time, however, he was unable to pip Petr Cech as the club’s main goal-stopper; with Leno coming on board, it seems as if Ospina will now be the third choice keeper. The silver lining for Ospina, however, are the reports linking Cech to Napoli on a loan move. This will leave a void for a second-string keeper to play in Europe and other games when the fixtures start to mount. Honestly, this is the only scenario in which I can see Ospina staying with us. Even then, after four years in the shadows, he should be itching to play first team football with a lower-level club in England or elsewhere.

Regardless, assuming Ospina and/or Cech departs the club this season, we will need to recruit a reserve keeper from somewhere. After spending £22million on Leno, it seems silly to dip into the market again for a reserve keeper, unless we can pick up a cheapish youth prospect. I would really like to see Emery look to our academy resources and recruit a keeper already in the system. Admittedly, I haven’t seen him play much, but Matt Macey could be the man to fill Ospina/ Cech’s shoes as a third-string keeper. Macey was recalled from his loan spell at Luton Town in April last year after injury concerns for Cech and Ospina. He made his Arsenal debut the following October against Norwich in Round 4 of the EFL Cup.

Macey kept four clean sheets in 13 appearances for Luton Town; not a bad return. He has been with us since 2013 and, at 23 years old, could benefit from some first-team action. He also signed a contract extension in December 2017 for an undisclosed period. Nevertheless, Ospina will not want to be distracted by the doubts around his club career until the World Cup concludes. Until then, all he can do is focus on himself and make sure he is as solid as he can be in order to recapture the attention of fans and prospective clubs.