Arsene Wenger should abandon his goalkeeper rotation policy and select David Ospina for Saturday's Wembley showdown against Reading.
Forget rotation. Forget resting in-form players. Forget giving fringe players a game.
Arsene Wenger should pick his strongest team for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Reading.
That means selecting David Ospina in goal and resisting the temptation to recall Wojciech Szczesny.
The younger of the two goalkeepers has been given the nod for Arsenal’s last three FA Cup ties, against Brighton in the fourth round, Middlesbrough in the fifth round and, most memorably, against Manchester United in the quarter-final.
It provided Szczesny with some first-team football after being axed from the team in the wake of Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day, a match in which the Pole was at fault for both of the home side’s goals. It also proved that Szczesny had been partially forgiven for smoking in the showers after the Southampton fiasco.
But Wenger should abandon the rotation policy that he has used for domestic cup matches in the last two seasons and simply select his best possible team for the semi-final clash at Wembley.
What matters is not keeping Szczesny on side, or being loyal to a long-standing squad member, but maintaining Arsenal’s brilliant run and increasing their chances of a grandstand finish to the season with a second consecutive FA Cup triumph.
Moreover, Ospina deserves the chance to decorate an impressive debut campaign with an FA Cup winner’s medal.
The 26-year-old Colombian, has taken his chance with both gloves. In 12 Premier League matches since dethroning Szczesny, he has conceded a mere seven goals, including just five in the team’s remarkable run of eight consecutive league victories.
Ospina has provided the type of consistency and reliability sorely lacking from Szczesny over the last 18 months. His distribution is also far less likely to prompt palpitations in the dugout.
Wenger can point to his successful goalkeeper rotation policy of last season, when Szczesny was the Premier League and Champions League No.1, and Lukasz Fabianski got the nod for the domestic cups. It culminated in Fabianski ending a mixed Arsenal career with an FA Cup winner’s medal.
But, there was little to choose between the two Polish internationals at that point. Fabianski had the technical edge and Szczesny possessed the self-belief lacking in his countryman.
By contrast, Ospina is now the undisputed Arsenal No.1 on all fronts.
One school of thought is that, were Szczesny to be the goalkeeper when Arsenal lifted the Cup for a second consecutive year, it would deliver huge spin-off benefits in terms of the 24-year-old’s mentality and confidence.
Wenger should ignore that. This is not about individuals. It is about the team. And Arsenal need their best 'keeper in goal.