David Ospina, John Ruddy, Keylor Navas and What Arsenal Need in a Goalkeeper

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David Ospina, John Ruddy, Keylor Navas and What Arsenal Need in a Goalkeeper
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Arsenal headed into this summer transfer window needing several key additions to the squad. And so far, bucking historical precedent, they're actually addressing them.

Alexis Sanchez has added valuable depth to Arsenal's corps of wingers and can even give Olivier Giroud some relief up front. With Theo Walcott injured last season, the Gunners utterly lacked width and pace, as well as that fleet-footed aggression excellent players provide.

That signing alone will help Arsenal bridge the seven-point gap that separated them from champions Manchester City last season. But, of course, there are still important holes left to fill.

And it seems that the club is close to filling them. The Independent and many other sources claim that Mathieu Debuchy is on the verge of completing a move to the Emirates, thereby filling the gaping hole that Bacary Sagna left at right-back. He'll add experience and allow younger players time to develop.

Moreover, if reports like this in The Daily Mirror are true, Arsenal are pursuing Sami Khedira as a marquee addition to their midfield, filling the defensive role that Mikel Arteta is no longer capable of occupying by himself.

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Yet fewer news outlets are reporting on one of the less sexy, but almost as important, additions that the Gunners need to make this summer.

In the wake of the departures of both Lukasz Fabianski and Emiliano Viviano, Arsenal desperately need another goalkeeper. But unlike transfer windows past, they are not looking for a long-term starter.

During the multiple seasons in which he has been Arsenal's starter, Wojciech Szczesny has dispelled any lingering concerns that fans or management might have had about his fitness for the role.

He is now a mature, confident stopper who commands his defense with authority and only makes the very occasional mistake. But he now has no one to back him up or give him relief for cup games.

Arsenal.com's first-team roster lists Szczesny as the club's only senior goalkeeper. Obviously, that cannot persist into the new season.

Whereas Sanchez was a luxury signing, a backup goalkeeper (or even two) is an absolute necessity.

The press have focused on three names with varying degrees of intensity recently: Keylor Navas, David Ospina and John Ruddy.

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Yet unless one of those men is willing to accept a secondary role (and, moreover, that role will very likely not change) then there is a strong disincentive to accept a move to Arsenal.

Each man is a starter at his club and is headed into the prime of his respective career. Navas has just been entrusted with the starting spot at Levante, Ospina is used to playing every game for Nice and Ruddy has been a reliable starter for Norwich for the last four years.

At 27, 25 and 27 respectively, each will probably look for regular football.

Arsene Wenger's search should be guided by a few basic criteria, namely the potential signing's experience, willingness to accept a secondary role in the team and ability to challenge Szczesny to improve.

The healthy competition Szczesny and Fabianski had undoubtedly forced the former to be on his toes, as his compatriot was always chomping at the bit to take his spot. When Szczesny relaxed a bit too much during the 2012-13 season, Wenger dropped him, and his performance improved exponentially thereafter.

Navas, Ospina and Ruddy can all provide that challenge, as all have demonstrated the necessary quality and consistency. Navas and Ospina's stocks have never been higher due to fantastic World Cup performances.

But in order to avoid internal discord, Wenger must be absolutely sure that they, or any other potential signing, knows exactly what their transfer entails.

It might make more sense to sign an older goalkeeper in his twilight years who is able to start on occasion or in an emergency and teach Szczesny, who at 24 is very young in goalkeeping terms, some tricks of the trade.

This is the sort of signing that does not generate millions of dollars in shirt sales or cause the Internet to bubble with excitement, but it is crucial to maintaining a squad deep enough to withstand the many rigors of a four-competition, 10-month season.

 

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