Arsenal’s new Premier League season starts on Sunday, so this week will be Preview Week. We’ll be previewing the 2018/19 team by position, highlighting some of the new guys, and predicting where we all think they’ll finish. We start today at the back, looking at Arsenal’s goalkeeping corps and trying to read some tea leaves as to what will happen this season. First up, last year’s #1:
Cech, famously acquired for £10m in a summer where Arsenal bought nobody else, despite having many needs that went unmet, was an unexpected addition to Arsenal’s squad. He hasn’t been bad, at all, but early predictions that he’d save the Gunners 12 points a season proved to be unfounded, as Cech has worked his way down his decline curve to the point where there was some question as to whether he’d come back this season.
He did, though, and the 36 year old will want to spend this season proving he still has what it takes to compete at this level. He conceded 11 more goals last season than the season before, although a lot of the blame for that can be also be shared by the defense. He did keep 11 clean sheets, tied for fourth in the league, but again, defense helps that.
This season, for the first time in a while, Cech has credible competition for the #1 shirt, and he’s not shying away from that, saying “for every player you do your best, then the manager has his choice to make”, which tells me he’s not going to relinquish the #1 without a fight.
As mentioned, Arsenal went abroad to find a challenger to Petr Cech, signing Leno from Bayer Leverkusen in a move that many see as having the potential to relegate Cech to the bench. Despite Leno’s somewhat mixed reputation at Leverkusen, it has to be assumed that he wasn’t signed to be the next David Ospina, and that he’ll push Cech for the top spot. Unai Emery has been silent on that front, though, offering basically no insight as to who will be the starter come Sunday.
Personally, I hope Leno takes the job; I like Cech, but as mentioned, he’s well on his way down his decline phase, and if Leno can push Cech, it’s a win-win for the club. Either Cech gets better in his last season, and plays out of his head out of fear of losing his job in the final year of his contract, or Leno takes the job and makes it his own.
Ospina, reportedly on his way to Besiktas, has been Arsenal’s “Cup keeper” when Arsene Wenger thought it was important that that be a thing. What he wasn’t, though, was particularly good. He made a whole bunch of high profile mistakes, and it’s fair to say he doesn’t inspire confidence in most Arsenal fans, even as a bench option. A fresh start somewhere else might do him good, but either way, the less we see of Ospina this season, the better off we all are, I think.
With Matt Macey being loaned to Plymouth Argyle, Martinez is the club’s young upstart goalkeeper of the future. Macey might see a few games in the league cup, but barring something going catastrophically wrong with Cech and Leno at the same time, I think Martinez will continue to be “oh, that guy?” for Arsenal for at least another season.