By Matt Farr
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has criticised Arsene Wenger for persisting with David Ospina in Champions League matches.
Ferdinand slammed the Gunners boss for playing goalkeeper David Ospina over Petr Cech during the club’s European campaign this season.
Cech is Arsenal’s no.1 goalkeeper, and is the first name on the team-sheet in the Premier League.
However, Wenger allows understudy Ospina to play in the European games, a rotation policy he enforced last season and which he is set to continue in Tuesday’s clash against Basel.
But ex-England international Ferdinand believes that Arsenal must play their best players in Europe’s premier competition, hinting that making such changes could ruin their chances of success.
He told the Metro: “Ospina is clearly a good keeper and one that manager Arsene Wenger rates highly but Petr Cech is the no.1 at the club and should have been playing in the group games.
“Instead, he has sat out every single one so far, while Ospina has stood between the posts.
“There are many reasons why I don’t agree with this policy. For starters, Wenger signed a new centre-half in Shkodran Mustafi in the summer and this is a key period of the season for the defence and keeper to work on their understanding.
“The relationship between the goalkeeper and the two centre-halves is one of the most important on a football pitch.
“The more time Cech plays with Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi, the better it is for all of them,” he said.
Last season, Ospina conceded 10 goals from six games during Arsenal’s Champions League group-stage campaign. However, the Colombian stopper made a series of calamitous errors, including an own-goal in a shock 3-2 defeat to Olympiakos, which saw Cech recalled to the line-up to face Barcelona in the knockout-stages.
Ospina and Arsenal have fared better this season, conceding just five goals in the group-stage.
But despite the improvement from Arsenal’s no.2, Ferdinand still believes that Wenger should have stayed put with Cech.
“Petr has been an unbelievable signing for Arsenal. He is experienced and knows how to win trophies. He is a calming influence in that backline and they look a lot better when he is in it,” Ferdinand added to the Metro.
“Of course Wenger is the manager and knows his players better than me, but I can’t figure out why he didn’t play Cech for four or five games, secure top spot in the group and then bring Ospina in.”
As it stands, Arsenal will qualify from Group A in second-place behind Paris Saint-Germain, who have a better head-to-head record. That is however, unless Ludogorets beat PSG on Tuesday night – and Arsenal beat Basel.
In other Arsenal news, Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas expects this duo to start against Basel.