“Every game has its own ingredients and I try to savour all of them. Football is about fun and enjoyment. If you put all that together good results will come.”
David Ospina’s goalkeeping philosophy is one that has served him well during a convincing first campaign at Arsenal. A season that began with a frustrating thigh injury sustained during last summer’s World Cup has ended with David holding down a regular starting spot and lifting the FA Cup.
The man from Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, finished 2014/15 with some stand-out statistics too - his win ratio of 72.22 per cent and save percentage of 80.7 were the highest figures of any goalkeeper to have played a minimum of 10 Premier League matches.
"Alexis has an innate talent. He is not only a great person but also a great footballer. He is a very quick player who can come up with something new anytime"
Arsène Wenger is clearly happy with David’s impact. “Ospina has been absolutely great since he played,” he enthused after the goalkeeper kept his 10th club clean sheet in a goalless draw against Sunderland on May 20.
It should come as no surprise that David has acclimatised so quickly to English football and he pinpoints his successful move to French side OGC Nice from hometown club Atletico Nacional as a crucial juncture in his career.
While the season may be over for the majority of his team-mates, David is spending this summer back in South America, taking part in the Copa America. He sat down with the Arsenal Magazine before he left for the tournament to discuss Colombia’s chances and look back on what he says has been a “dream” start to his Arsenal career.
Firstly David, what can you recall about your arrival at the club? What were your first impressions? I am happy to be part of one of the best football clubs in the world. I adapted quickly to Arsenal because I have an excellent group of team-mates. Regarding football, it has been a really positive season and I hope I can carry on helping the club.
Was it quite difficult to join straight after the World Cup, having picked up an injury? Ideally, you aim to arrive at a new club in the best possible physical condition. Sadly, I got here carrying an injury and that was hard at the time because you want to prove yourself from the very first day you arrive at a new club. Luckily, both my family and all the staff helped me a lot so I could get back to 100 per cent again.
Eventually I recovered well and that is the most important thing. However, during that period I got to know English football better. Also, it was imperative for me to stay strong and calm so I could perform as soon as I was given the chance. At the end of the day Arsenal have two excellent goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez, and I had to stay focused.
You joined Arsenal from Nice. Was it helpful to have already spent a lot of time in Europe, and would it have been much harder to come directly from Colombia? Having previous experience in Europe gets you ready for anything you can come across in the future. I knew it was going to be a bit difficult to settle down but at the same time I was mentally prepared and ready for whatever could happen. At the moment, there is this attitude in Colombia that players have to spend time in the Argentinean or Brazilian league before making the jump to Europe.
An opportunity presented itself to me to move directly to from Colombia to Europe. It made me happy, even though it was a difficult decision to come to as I was still very young. I had to learn a new language and be far away from my family, but I think it was the correct decision to make. I was able to experience a different style of football, on another continent. This is where my story in Europe began, and where I raised my family - all of this made me happy.
How did your time in Ligue 1 improve you? I think that changing style can be a bit strange, but helps you to improve your game. In Europe, keepers play in a more restrained manner, whereas in South America they can be a bit more dramatic. So, I try to mix both styles and see what works, although changing completely from what I've been working on all my life isn't really realistic.
You moved to France at a young age but already had plenty of top-level experience, having broken into Atletico Nacional’s team as a teenager...Yes, I was 16 going on 17. It was a huge joy for me, because Nacional is the team I love and support in Colombia, and to play for them was very important for me. Winning two titles with Nacional was vital for my career – it was a beautiful time for me. I was fortunate to have this opportunity. The truth is, it wasn't a big deal for me - being in the team aged 17. Nacional is a huge club in Colombia, a club that needs results. There were goalkeepers there with a lot of experience, with many games behind them, so that when I came into the team, with little experience, people questioned it. But I was ready for it. Fortunately things turned out brilliantly, and I was able to settle in fine.
On the subject of settling in, what has surprised you about English football? I watched English football on television, even before moving here. Now I have a better picture of what English football is. No matter the score, every team fights until the end of the game. Teams are very solid and everyone wants to win, which adds a lot to the game. All that makes English football very special.
How did it feel to establish yourself as a regular during the second half of the season? I am thrilled. It’s a dream come true. Now I have to work hard in every training session and make the most of every opportunity. There’s a lot of competition for the No 1 spot. Therefore, I can’t look anywhere beyond the next game. I will face each challenge and look forward to it.
You’ve had a very good start to life in England, having only lost two of your first 18 Premier League games and keeping 10 clean sheets in all competitions... We have an excellent group of players and staff here. The club think big and covet titles. We hope to prepare even better for next season so we can take Arsenal to where the club belongs. The most important thing is the collective results. The team has performed well and the good job of each player has an influence on the togetherness of the team. If needed, our strikers will defend as much as the back four in order to wrap up good results. Everyone plays an important role within the club. That is the important thing.
League success was punctuated by defeat to Monaco – how tough was that match to take? Losing against Monaco was hard for us to stomach since we thought we had a good chance to progress in the competition. Obviously, we knew Monaco were doing well in French domestic football and we respected them. Football is about drawing, winning or losing, but it always gives you the chance to stand up the day after and go on. Things did not go our way in Champions League, but we had to recover from it and keep on with the good results so we could achieve our goals.
The most important things is winning titles. At Arsenal, whoever is out of the line-up will cheer up and support their team-mates. We all have to stay united and head in the same direction. Winning the FA Cup final against a very tough rival like Aston Villa helped us to close the season in style, and we also secured an automatic Champions League spot.
What have been your highlights in your first season? First of all, arriving here was a dream come true because Arsenal is one of the best clubs in the world. I would say that playing my first game for the club at the Emirates in front of the supporters was very special too. After that it’s tricky to number each highlight. Every game has its own ingredients and I try to savour all of them. Football is about fun and enjoyment. If you put all that together good results will come.
And how much are you enjoying life in London now? I like London. There are plenty of things to do in this city. Besides, my son has been born during my spell here. That’s an unforgettable milestone that I will always relate to this city, as I relate my daughter’s birth to France. That life experience made it easier for me to settle here. London is spectacular.
And you have a strong friendship with Olivier Giroud. Did you know him when you were in France? Why do you get on so well? When you don’t speak the language it helps a lot to have people around that can communicate with you. Fortunately I already knew Olivier Giroud, and the two Mathieus - Debuchy and Flamini. I am trying to learn the language as quickly as possible so I can rapidly fit in the squad. I won’t deny it makes it easier to have Spanish and French speakers around. But I am willing to learn the language in order to complete my adaptation.
When you go away with the Colombia national team, do you discuss the English football? What do the other players want to know about the Premier League? Most of my Colombian team-mates would like to play in the Premier League because it’s an appealing competition. It’s well organised and well structured, which are some positive qualities that make this league unique. Everyone in the Colombian national team asks me about life in England and my answers about the country and the league are always very positive.
After the World Cup last year, this summer you’re taking part in the Copa America. What are Colombia’s prospects? Colombia will face a really tough challenge. As a result of our performance in the last World Cup there is a lot of expectation around the national team. We have a great generation of footballers but at the same time we are all aware of the Copa America’s toughness. Every team prepares for the competition very well and there will be excellent players out there. We must face the challenge with a lot of responsibility.
With the Copa America being held in Chile, you will probably see many, many posters of another of your team-mates! That’s the nicest thing about football. We are all friends but whenever we play for our national team, we focus on paying respects to the country we are playing for. We are good friends with many South American players, but Colombia are pursuing some ambitious targets, just as every country does. I hope we get positive results.
Alexis Sanchez has had a fantastic first season – have you been surprised at just how well he’s done? What is he like to play against in training? Alexis has an innate talent. He is not only a great person but also a great footballer. He is a very quick player who can come up with something new anytime. He is very intelligent and we are glad to have him at Arsenal.
Finally, now you’ve had a season in the Premier League, how would you like to see your game develop in your second season – are there areas you have pinpointed to work on? As a goalkeeper you must improve day after day. I would say that the nicest thing of being a goalkeeper is that you always have to improve in every aspect, even in those areas you master. You must work a lot on the areas you falter too! We are lucky we can strengthen our weaknesses in training. We have to keep on working with the same winning mentality so we can think of important things for next year.
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