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David Ospina to start for Arsenal at Bayern Munich

by 14/02/2017 18:10:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Arsenal face Bayern Munich in a Champions League last 16 clash on Wednesday
  • Arsene Wenger confirmed that David Ospina will start in goal for the Gunners
  • Wenger pointed to Ospina's performances as a reason for his side's progress 
  • Petr Cech will be on the bench despite winning the Champions League in Munich

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

Published: 14:30 EST, 14 February 2017 | Updated: 18:10 EST, 14 February 2017

On a day when much talk was about Arsenal goalkeepers, it was something the chap who will stand between the posts for Bayern Munich on Wednesday night said that cut right to the heart of a much more fundamental issue.

Buried beneath a mountain of platitudes from Manuel Neuer and indeed his Bayern team-mate Mats Hummels was this kernel.

'Arsenal are a team that want to play,' said the Bayern goalkeeper. 'They are strong but you will get more free space to play.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Ospina will start at Bayern Munich Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Ospina will start at Bayern Munich

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Ospina will start at Bayern Munich

Ospina has only played eight games all season and none in the Premier League Ospina has only played eight games all season and none in the Premier League

Ospina has only played eight games all season and none in the Premier League

'We are a team that likes to let the ball circulate and take advantage of this space. That is why it will be nice for the supporters to watch.'

Close your eyes and Neuer could have been talking about a pre- season friendly, or a testimonial or charity game. This, of course, is none of those things.

At the Allianz Arena a Champions League knockout game will take place, a game that could — depending on what happens at the end of this season — represent the last knockings of Arsene Wenger's final attempt to win the most important competition of all.

Neuer's take on the matter was interesting and important. The German goalkeeper was not being disrespectful or even provocative. He spent other periods of the press conference talking about what a good side Arsenal are.

He was, however, being honest and that's what stood out. He was telling it as it is and who could really disagree? The popular notion both inside and outside the game is that Arsenal can be far too easy to play against when it matters and it is something Wenger and his team must disprove in Bavaria.

But Wenger has credited the keeper with seeing his team into the Champions League last 16 But Wenger has credited the keeper with seeing his team into the Champions League last 16

But Wenger has credited the keeper with seeing his team into the Champions League last 16

After all, could you imagine Neuer saying such a thing about Chelsea? Did any European opponent ever say it about Manchester United? We know the answer to that and when the accusation was put to him, Wenger could only nod in the manner of a man who has heard it all before.

'Let's just focus on what we can do and not what people say or think about us,' said the Arsenal manager. 'We have to try to be efficient defensively and then try to hurt them when we have the ball.

'I don't think to play attacking but efficient football is a bad target, personally. Remember that this season we have gone through the group without losing a game. Let's focus on that. We had very difficult teams in our group, such as PSG.'

Wenger can bristle when taken to task on assumed deficiencies. But if his issue is repetition of questions year on year then he may wish to ask why it happens.

The selection of his second-string keeper David Ospina will only add to the air of vulnerability around his team. One thing Wenger can never be accused of is lacking the courage of his convictions. Whether he remains as sanguine about the issue by full time remains to be seen.

Certainly Arsenal are the underdogs over the two legs against Carlo Ancelotti's team.

Petr Cech, who won the Champions League in Munich in 2012, will be on the bench Petr Cech, who won the Champions League in Munich in 2012, will be on the bench

Petr Cech, who won the Champions League in Munich in 2012, will be on the bench

Asked by the BBC about this, Wenger said: 'Thank you for reminding me of our bad history (in this competition). But let's focus on the future. Listening to you, it's clear that we are not favourites. But let's watch the performance.'

With the goalkeeper selection issue settled, Wenger must make another call regarding Mesut Ozil. The German has not been at his best recently but Wenger admitted the former Werder Bremen and Schalke player would be 'highly motivated' if selected.

Ozil's international team-mate Hummels said: 'For me he is a world-class player and someone I would always pick on the field. I think he will be on the pitch from the start as he is a fantastic player. Every attacking player has good and bad moments, it's not just him.'

Once again asked about his future at Arsenal, Wenger was in no mood to discuss it and he is not to be blamed for that. It is a subject that became tedious a long time ago.

Wenger smiles as he leaves the pre-match press conference alongside Laurent Koscielny Wenger smiles as he leaves the pre-match press conference alongside Laurent Koscielny

Wenger smiles as he leaves the pre-match press conference alongside Laurent Koscielny

He faces a former Premier League adversary and Ancelotti gave it his familiar raised-eyebrow look when asked about criticism of Wenger back in England.

'He has great experience and knows that in our job it's normal to be criticised,' he said. 'I have a lot of respect for the job he has done at Arsenal.'

All very nice but perhaps of greater consequence was the great Italian's reply when asked what it takes to win the Champions League.

'Courage, personality, experience and luck,' he said. 'The courage is very important.'

Do Arsenal have what it takes? Do they tick those boxes? Let's put it like this: Wednesday night would be a good time to alter some deeply entrenched perceptions of what Wenger's team really are.  

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