Goalkeepers have been a hot topic this summer. Iker Casillas being bombed out of Real Madrid, Manchester United’s David De Gea potentially replacing him, Arsenal finally signing a top-class No. 1 in Petr Cech; there’s been a fair share of spotlight trained on a facet of a squad which is typically understated.
There’ll be collateral damage as part of these movements, though. Indeed, the Gunners David Ospina has been linked with a move away from the Emirates in the aftermath of their capture of Cech. His rumored destination? Everton.
“Everton are a competitive team, and showed good things in league last season,” said the Colombia international, per Phil Kirkbride of the Liverpool Echo. “It’s a club to consider and a great opportunity.”
While Ospina’s assessment that the Toffees showed positive factors in their play last season is bald flattery, as the ‘keeper says himself—it’d be an interesting opportunity. After all, the 26-year-old is unlikely to usurp Cech between the sticks at the Emirates any time soon and in his brief stint in nets for the Gunners, he was impressive.
Aside from the grating chant the Arsenal faithful fashioned for Ospina, there was a lot to like about him. He may not be as spectacular a shot-stopper as someone like De Gea—although he is capable of stunning moments, as Lionel Messi and Argentina found out at this summer’s Copa America—nor have a penalty box presence comparable with Thibaut Courtois, but the Arsenal man is a solid, reliable and assured presence.
They were qualities that were in short supply at the base of the Everton team last season with Tim Howard in goal. For so long, the American international has been a goalkeeper similarly solid as Ospina and a man capable of conjuring moments of magic. But the aura ceased in spectacular fashion last season, as the Toffees toiled.
Granted, the Everton defensive did leave much to be desired, but Howard’s form took a startling turn for the worse. Gone was the mercurial shot stopping ability he showcased for the United States against Belgium in the World Cup, no longer was he a decisive in distribution and his undesirable penchant for being stuck to his line got even worse.
Sadly, although he’s been a tremendous servant, the American was a major hindrance and in the end, was a detriment to his team-mates. In the eyes of most Toffees, he was lucky to earn his place straight back in the team ahead of Joel Robles after an injury layoff from Boxing Day; as noted by Mike Goodman in his piece on the USMNT star, prior that 45 percent of all shots faced by Howard were getting picked out of the net by him just moments later.
Of course, these statistics are subjective, but by any goalkeeper’s standard, that’s a poor return. And although Howard did return to form of sorts towards the end of the campaign, after watching the former Manchester United man flounder for the majority of 2014-15, a reported fee of £5 million for Ospina looks tempting.
Not only is the Colombia man a decade younger than Howard, but he adapted well to his first taste of Premier League soccer, the same which cannot be said for a lot of ‘keepers who are thrown in at the deep end. To do so at a club like Arsenal, where added focus and expectation is natural, that’s mightily impressive.
Ospina is not quite good enough for a side like the Gunners, who will be pushing for the Premier League title and a spot in the latter stages of the Champions League next term. But for a team like Everton who are pushing for European places, the Colombian would be an astute signing.
It’s not to say a deal will certainly happen. Although Ospina was effusive in his praise for the Merseysiders, as Kirkbride notes in his piece, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez is likely put his faith in Howard again for the upcoming. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may also see the goalkeeper as fine back-up for Cech and with the club in a plethora of competitions, Ospina could still get plenty of game time.
According to reports in Spain (h/t talkSPORT) Valencia have also shown an interest in the Gunners man, as they look to compensate for the long-term layoff of their goalkeeper Diego Alves.
It’s understandable that Martinez wants men with experience aplenty in his team and Howard has been an almost unshakeable figure in goal ever since he joined Everton. However, the Toffees have recently seen first-hand with Sylvain Distin than veteran players’ form can just drop off a cliff; all the hallmarks were there last year to suggest the same may had happened to Howard.
The Toffees and Arsenal are both in Singapore for a pre-season tournament. You just wonder whether Ospina’s name may crop up in conversations between the two managers.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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