Considering how Arsenal’s season has progressed, there is likely to be major surgery in the summer. Whether Arsène Wenger remains in charge or not, it is set to be a summer marked by major personnel changes, with Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil expected to depart. However, at the other end of the pitch, David Ospina is reportedly also angling for an exit after growing frustrated with the lack of starting opportunities at the Gunners under Wenger.
The Colombian stopper, who arrived from Nice in 2014 on the back of an impressive showing for his country in the World Cup, started his first Premier League game of the season in the 2-2 draw against Manchester City. It was a mixed bag as he made three saves but was rounded by Leroy Sané for City’s early opener and let Sergio Agüero’s shot underneath him for the second.
With Petr Čech injured, it highlighted the need for recruitment between the sticks in the summer, whether Ospina stays or not. Even with Čech at the club, the former Chelsea man is 34 and is approaching the winter of his career, so it’s probably that the club are drawing up a list of potential long-term replacements for him. Here are five goalkeepers Arsenal should consider as a replacement for Petr Čech in the summer.
Let’s get one of the obvious ones out of the way early, shall we? There’s a good reason why England under-21 international Jordan Pickford is at the top of this list, though, as he has been thoroughly impressive throughout his fledgling career to routinely catapult him into the transfer columns as an attractive proposition for clubs like Arsenal and Manchester City.
Sunderland are obviously keen to keep Pickford but, given his rapid and eye-catching development and the Black Cats' financial situation – which may grow more dire with relegation – they may be forced into letting him go.
As mentioned, the 22-year-old has impressed mightily this season. In 22 appearances, he's kept three clean sheets and has made 96 saves, with only Tom Heaton and Ben Foster bettering that. While Pickford has been rightly commended for his shot-stopping and ability to command aerial situations, he’s also a shrewd distributor, an increasingly popular attribute in the modern game.
With all that under his belt and with plenty of time still to develop into a world-class goalkeeper, Pickford is arguably the ideal candidate for Arsenal, but he won’t come cheap – with an estimated value of £35m.
Arsenal’s forgotten man and a long-time tormentor of slack-eyed sub-editors, Wojciech Szczęsny has spent the last two season on loan at Roma – and he’s impressed. Considering that he’s still technically an Arsenal player, the Poland international could be the central figure in an unlikely comeback story should he return.
Szczęsny is now 26 and has matured greatly during his time in the Italian capital, but Polish FA chief Zbigniew Boniek insisted that he would not return to north London if Wenger was still in charge. However, he may be powerless to stop such a development as his loan with Roma expires in the summer and he’s under contract at Arsenal until 2019.
Szczęsny’s performances have helped Roma to second-place in the Serie A table this season but, should he have a change of heart regarding his Arsenal future, he would be a strong candidate to challenge Cech for first-choice next season, and he wouldn’t cost a penny.
Standard Liège stopper Guillaume Hubert has attracted plenty of interest from abroad this season after establishing himself as his club’s number one. Arsenal appear to be one of his admiring potential suitors, with reports claiming Wenger has sent scouts to watch him play several times already this season.
The 23-year-old hasn’t concealed his desire either, declaring that a move to Arsenal would be an enticing prospect for him. However, while he is pushing hard for a call-up to Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad, Wenger may be minded not to pursue a goalkeeper as untested as Hubert.
Hubert is certainly a wildcard, but he’s also one of the cheaper options on this list. If Arsenal lose Sánchez and Özil and decide to spend lavishly to secure replacements in attack, a cut-price deal for Hubert may become a distinct possibility. While he’s undoubtedly talented and set on the right career trajectory, Hubert has only managed one clean sheet in the Jupiler Pro League this season, which may be a cause for concern for Arsenal’s scouts.
He’s been labelled Ligue 1’s exciting answer to AC Milan’s teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma. The 18-year-old Frenchman has attracted plenty of admiring glances from clubs around Europe thanks to his sure-handed performances for Toulouse, and could be an ideal long-term solution for Arsenal.
Despite his tender years, Alban Lafont has already proven himself to be a highly-developed, rounded goalkeeper. He’s noted for his coolness under pressure and former France goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau praised the youngster’s ability to command his penalty area and consistently get his angles correct, maximising the chance of saving a shot. He’s also quick-footed and possesses an accurate long ball, so he ticks the distribution box too.
Plus, while he may be young, Lafont has already made 54 Ligue 1 appearances for Toulouse, so he would come with valuable experience already under his belt. Lafont has kept nine clean sheets already this season, averages 2.33 saves per game and has a claim success of 95%.
The ideal scenario would be to secure Lafont’s services and have him serve as Čech’s understudy for a year to avoid throwing him in at the deep end of the Premier League. Lafont has already proven himself to be a freakishly quick learner, so he would make the perfect student on which Čech could impart his considerable goalkeeping wisdom. However, with a transfer market value that’s likely to rocket in the summer, it remains to be seen if Arsenal pursue this exceptionally gifted stopper.
In February, reports emerged linking Arsenal with a surprise move for Joe Hart, currently on loan at Torino from Manchester City. While sections of social media laughed at the prospect, the England international would actually be an interesting proposition for Arsenal.
Although Hart is due back at City at the end of the season, Pep Guardiola recently declared himself ‘so happy’ with current stoppers Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero, seemingly starting the exit music for England’s number one.
While Hart has enjoyed his Italian stopover this season, there is a belief that he’s determined to rejuvenate his Premier League career and Arsenal may represent the greatest opportunity to re-establish himself at a ‘big club.’ There’s also the added incentive of securing his spot in the England squad under Gareth Southgate, which would be more easily achieved under his boss’s nose in the Premier League.
At Torino, Hart has kept five clean sheets, and has averaged 2.68 saves per game with an average claim success of 94%. While he hasn’t completely managed to rid his game of errors, it must be stressed that no goalkeeper is perfect – and there’s a reason he maintained his place in City’s goal for so long prior to Guardiola’s appointment: he’s actually a good goalkeeper.
At £15m, Hart would be an advisable investment for Arsenal, but whether City would sanction his sale to a rival is another matter entirely.