Most French football fans were damning of the decision to hand Salvatore Sirigu the Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Season award at the end of the 2013/14 campaign. The Italian had another solid season with a PSG side tested considerably less than any other side in the division, conceding the fewest goals (23), but there were a number of candidates up for the gong.
Vincent Enyeama, for example, was breaking records with Lille, who conceded just 3 more goals than the eventual Ligue 1 champions. The Nigerian embarked on an 11-game league run without conceding a goal between the months of September and December and most felt that such exploits were deserving of the award. It's worth considering that while Enyeama was heroic in that run, Lille's defence were hugely impressive all season long. Indeed, the African's save success rate (77.4%) actually fell below Sirigu (78.5%), having only faced 17 more shots on target than the PSG shot stopper.
Neither keeper topped the pile in Ligue 1 were save success was concerned last season though. That accolade went to Colombian David Ospina (80.2%), whose exploits for Nice undoubtedly kept the club afloat in the top-flight last season, finishing as they did just one place and two points above the relegation zone. The impending loss of the 25-year-old to Arsenal will be of huge concern to the fans of the South Eastern outfit, who just the season were before were in dreamland after a shock fourth-placed finish. Meanwhile Wojciech Szczesny should also be wary of Ospina's potential arrival, having gone relatively unopposed between the posts for the Gunners for some time now.
A transfer fee of just over £3 million is an absolute snip for the North Londoners, and Ospina certainly wouldn't be content with a place on the bench at the Emirates. His signing is not merely one to replace the outward-bound reserve keeper Lukasz Fabianski. The South American will provide stiff competition to Arsenal's current incumbent of the number one jersey, that's for sure.
One need only look to Nice's record without their first choice keeper in the XI last season. Having to cope without the Colombian for 9 league games last season, Nice lost all 9, conceding 18 goals in the process. When Ospina started the Ligue 1 strugglers actually won more games than they lost (12 to 11) and picked up an average of 1.45 points per game. Ospina conceded just 0.86 goals per game, with Nice ending the season with an identical defensive record to Lyon (44 conceded), who finished 12 places and 19 points above them in the table. It's simple, were it not for their keeper, Nice would have been relegated.
There's no question that Arsenal's expected new recruit would carry a real threat to Wojciech Szczesny's starting spot, though it's competition that the Pole has needed and perhaps lacked since earning his first team status. Nevertheless, there's little doubt that the young stopper made significant waves last season, earning an impressive rating of 7.04 from WhoScored.com, only ranking marginally behind former Gunner Vito Mannone (7.05) of keepers in England's top-tier.
The 24-year-old's save success rate (73%), however, was considerably lower than that of Ospina last season, having only conceded 3 goals fewer (41) than a Nice outfit that finished 17th in Ligue 1. Ospina averaged 3.48 saves per game, which was unsurprisingly in advance of Szczesny's still considerable figure of 3 per game with Arsenal in the Premier League. The Colombian also averaged an impressive 2 successful high claims per game, fourth of all Ligue 1 keepers with 10 or more appearances and again in advance of Szczesny's 1.7 per game.
While it's always with caution that one should compare players across competitions due to differing styles and levels of quality, the performances of a goalkeeper are perhaps less reliant on such issues. It could certainly be argued that the quality of strikers in the Premier League is greater than in Ligue 1 so the shots faced will be harder to save, but it's also relevant to note that the quality of defending in Ligue 1 may be inferior and therefore keepers will have to deal with more challenging scenarios more often.
Such were the quality of Ospina's figures last season and the impact that he had on his side that the Colombian shouldn't have too much difficulty in adapting to the strains of England's top-flight. Szczesny will need to be at his best and avoid slipping up, as affording Ospina the chance to show what he can do could prove extremely costly.
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All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com where you can find yet more stats.Suggest a correction