Arsène Wenger Tuesday, angrily defended his decision to start David Ospina ahead of Petr Cech in Arsenal’s 3-2 Champions League defeat at home to Olympiakos, which has jeopardised their hopes of qualification to the knockout phase, saying it would be a “farce” to blame the goalkeeper.
Arsenal on the brink after dire defeat to Olympiakos in Champions League
Ospina dropped a corner into his own net to hand the Greek champions a 2-1 lead and, in general, failed to instil confidence in his backline. Wenger signed Cech from Chelsea for £10m in the summer and, at the time, it was expected that he would play him in the Champions League. The manager, though, started Ospina in the opening Group F loss at Dinamo Zagreb and he retained faith in him for the visit of Olympiakos. It is stating the obvious to say that Cech has not been happy at being on the bench.
“I do not have to sit here and give you any explanation about every decision I make,” Wenger said. “You are capable to judge what I do and I leave you to that. Cech had a slight [fitness] alert before the game at Leicester [on Saturday]. I didn’t want to take a gamble but it’s not because of that we lost the game. It’s a farce [to suggest that].”
Wenger got his numbers in a jumble when he advanced the statistics in support of Ospina. The Colombian played 23 matches in all competitions for Arsenal last season, following his £3m arrival from Nice and he kept 10 clean sheets. “It is always the simple thing,” Wenger said, when asked whether he regretted the selection of Ospina. “Ospina played 19 games last season and kept 14 clean sheets. Last week at Tottenham, he had a fantastic game. No keeper is mistake-free. It could have happened to Petr Cech as well.
“I make the selections for the team and I am responsible for them. And I know many things that you don’t know. Or that you ignore. We cannot select the team by making a poll before the game and getting everybody’s opinion.”
Wenger blamed the lack of “quality in our defensive concentration” for the defeat while he lamented bad luck, too. Olympiakos, he noted, had mustered only four shots on target but departed with three goals. “This happens once in 100 games in the Champions League,” Wenger said.
He pointed to the visitor’s third goal as the turning point. It came less than a minute after Alexis Sánchez had equalised for 2-2 and it followed a massive, collective loss of discipline. “We got back into the game well but we gave them straight away the 3-2 and that was the turning point,” Wenger said. “Tonight, we feel guilty because we gave away easy goals.”
Wenger, though, sounded a note of defiance, ahead of the back-to-back ties against Bayern Munich – the first of which is at home. “This leaves us in a bad position but we are still in it,” he said. “We have to think we can deal with Zagreb and Olympiakos away, and we have to make a result in our next game against Bayern Munich. We are not out of it.”