Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may have attempted to downplay the significance of Petr Cech's groin injury that will keep him out for the next four weeks, including the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, but for fans of the Gunners, it is impossible to not despair at the untimely loss of one of their players of the season. Cech has been a pillar of strength at the back since his summer move from Chelsea and his loss could yet prove to be fatal in the club's pursuit of a first Premier League title since 2004.
That view is seemingly reinforced by the imminent recall of David Ospina, who has not played a top flight game this season, and has proven himself to be a bag of nerves between the sticks since his move to The Emirates Stadium in the summer of 2014. The Colombia international has been rarely called on this term, restricted to appearances in the club's domestic cup campaign following two desperate appearances in the Champions League.
Though Arsenal slalomed through the group and into the knock-out stage, the selection of Ospina very nearly cost Wenger's side a place in the last 16. As Cech was rested for the second European game in a row against Olympiakos, the 27-year-old produced a laughable display that included dropping Kostas Fortounis' corner into his own net on their way to defeat. Bar two appearances in the FA Cup against lower league opponents, that outing is the last supporters have seen of the 'keeper.
But at White Hart Lane and across the next month, Arsenal fans will again come face-to-face with a man who has the club's remaining title ambitions resting on his shoulders, and Ospina's inadequate form, when measured against the reliability of Cech, will surely strike fear into the thousands who make the short trek across north London. Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and, fitness-permitting, Dele Alli will be licking their lips and sensing a chance to bury their rivals in the title race.
However, followers of Arsenal would be advised to check the statistics before drawing sweeping conclusions about their fate in the pursuit of the title, which sees them six points behind with 10 games remaining. The reality is Ospina, bar the horror show in the Champions League, should be held in high esteem.
In stats compiled by Opta, and published by Sky Sports, comparing both players' Premier League performances for Arsenal, it is Ospina who comes out marginally on top. In 28 appearances, Cech has conceded an average of a goal a game, meaning his minutes per goal average it at 90. By comparison, Ospina has let in 11 goals in 18 outings at an average of 147.3 minutes.
Ospina's clean sheet percentage and save percentage is at 44% and 81% respectively and also outstrips Cech at 43% and 76%, while his presence in the Arsenal goal raises the chances of the team winning with a win rate of 72%, compared to 54% when the Czech Republic international is available. Suddenly, those four weeks don't seem so bad.
Having won four Premier League titles amid 16 major honours as a professional in England, Cech has a deluge of experience at the highest level and needs no introduction to the pressure that the sharp end of the season presents. But on paper at least, Ospina has the capacity to challenge preconceptions he could be a soft touch in the Arsenal goal. Expect Tottenham to test that theory to the fullest extent in the lunchtime kick-off.