Arsenal keeper David Ospina is no plan B for Carabao Cup final at Wembley according to Arsene Wenger
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger replied immediately when asked the question.
No delay, prevarication or hesitation. ‘I have two world class keepers’.
While many would certainly debate the notion, the long-serving Frenchman was adamant. He was also emphatic about which of his netminders would start Carabao Cup final against Manchester City.
And it wouldn’t be the experienced former Chelsea man Petr Cech.
Wenger has been credited with bringing a lot of innovation into the English game – although, not as his detractors say, for a long time – but one thing he can claim to have invented recently is the idea of a ‘cup keeper’.
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And his first choice in Sunday’s showpiece Wembley final is Colombian David Opsina.
“What is happening is big clubs now you cannot have only one top goalkeeper. You need two”, Wenger insisted this week.
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“The intensity of the training is so high that you have more chances to be injured. You cannot rest keepers anymore in training, they have to work so hard. If you have no good second goalkeeper, you cannot win any trophy.
“If you want two top-class goalkeepers, you have to give them games or they don’t stay. So that’s why I think it is important. After that as well, it is a job. For me it is a big problem in the modern academies. We have maybe six to eight goalkeepers who are very young. T
“The average age of a goalkeeper lasts 15 years. So how can a young goalkeeper get a chance to play?
“If I was a father and my son was a goalkeeper and he goes into the academy, I would be very worried.”
Revealing stuff from Wenger, not least if you were the father of the promising Matt Macey, Hugo Keto, Joao Virginia and others.
But what does the good-natured Ospina think?
The popular South American – who showed his sense of social justice and awareness before Christmas by visiting the club’s work in association with youth homeless charity Centrepoint – has assumed an ever-growing importance within the club on and off the pitch this season.
Of course Colombian keepers performing at Wembley isn’t something new.
Ospina recalled watching as a seven-year-old back in the troubled city of Medellin in 1995 when ‘El Loco’,the Madman, performed his ‘Scorpion Kick’, writing himself into the folklore of the game for his flamboyance.
“We were delighted,” he said this week. “We talked about it a lot. It was great he did it at Wembley, too.
“For us Colombians Higuita is a really important figure. He did so much for the national team and the country. I have always had great respect for him, and it’s nice that he is remembered here for something special.”
Any chance of a repeat against Manchester City?
“The crazy keeper,” said Wenger smiling at the memory of that audacious moment.
“But I wouldn’t really be happy [to see Ospina try it]. It shows that football has changed. These kind of characters have disappeared from the game.
“With the importance of every single result, there is less room for this kind of improvisation and more individual responsibility on the players.”
Returning to the match against Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering City Wenger added: “In my head Ospina is not definitely a number two because he is in a fight with Cech. For me he is a world-class goalkeeper who is unfortunately at the moment my number two.”
Ospina is set to make his 12th start of the 2017-18 season, every single one in cup games. Ever the team-man he offers a thoughtful response. “You always want to be the number one. But you have to respect what the situation is at the club and I have huge respect for Petr.”
Another job as number one Ospina has recently claimed is that of club DJ, following the departure of the previous incumbent, Olivier Giroud.
“Olivier used to be in charge of the selection but now that he’s gone to Chelsea sometimes I select the music”, he explained. “It just makes us smile.
“Afterwards, different people play all sorts of music but beforehand it’s always Reggaeton.”
Reggaeton is as far a cry from the middle of the road Phil Collins, which used to be the music of choice most players a decade or two ago would have chosen.
Reggaeton came from Puerto Rico during the late 1990s and is influenced by hip hop and Latin American and Caribbean music.
One popular tune from the genre is “Si No Le Contesto” – If I do not answer.
For loyal clubman Ospina always answers the call from Arsenal, even if Wenger refuses to label him as second choice.
The name of the artists behind that particular Reggaeton tune?
Even Ospina would surely smile at the notion.