Arsene Wenger has hinted that goalkeeper David Ospina could still have a successful future at Arsenal, possibly as the successor to current number one Petr Cech. The Colombia international is second choice at the Emirates Stadium but is set to feature for the Gunners during their FA Cup third-round clash with Sunderland on 9 January.
Ospina, who moved to English football in a £3m ($4.3m) deal from Nice in July 2014 after impressing during his country's run to the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil, took over from Wojciech Szczesny as Wenger's first-choice stopper during the latter half of last season with his rival criticised over allegations that he was caught smoking in the showers following a defeat at Southampton.
He made 18 Premier League appearances after being promoted to the starting line-up in January but such a run was abruptly ended courtesy of Cech's summer arrival from Chelsea. The 27-year-old's likely start against Sunderland will be his first since he fumbled a Kostas Fortounis corner into his own net during Arsenal's shock 3-2 Champions League defeat to Olympiacos in September, but Wenger clearly has no concerns over a repeat performance.
"I personally think he is world class," the manager told Arsenal's official website. "I did not take Petr Cech based on the performances of Ospina. Petr Cech was just an exceptional opportunity where it was difficult to say no. It was not because I was unhappy with Ospina.
"I was very happy with Ospina. Unfortunately, Ospina has been punished by that decision to sign Cech, but I rate him highly. True he had a bad season because he has that mistake [against Olympiacos] and when you do not have many opportunities and you have one bad catch, everyone is after you.
"If you look at his performances from January to the end of last season, he saved us in many games. We are lucky because he has a top attitude, very intelligent, very brave, very quick. The difference with Cech is that he has less experience and his size. Cech is so tall that when he stretches he covers more surface."
With his first-team opportunities dramatically reduced, there have been questions asked as to whether Ospina, who has previously been linked with Turkish outfit Besiktas, will be content to remain at the club beyond the current transfer window. Reports from The Mirror earlier in January suggested his frustrations meant Arsenal were keen to welcome back Szczesny at the end of his season-long loan at Roma but Wenger believes he could become the regular starter in future.
He added: "When you have two good players, you have always a chance to make the right decision. I think Ospina can be the goalkeeper of the future here as well. With Petr Cech getting older, David may get more games as well."