It was June 29th and the Arsenal fans were celebrating. We had just come off an FA Cup win and it appeared we had solved a problem in the team that had been haunting us for years. Arsenal had completed the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea. A goalkeeper that genuinely fell under the ‘world class’ bracket would be playing his game at the Emirates. No longer would the team be subjected to abject performances from the likes of Almunia and Fabianski, we had an acclaimed goalkeeper who had won domestic and European silverware with Chelsea and would be bringing that quality to Arsenal, or so they thought.
Upon Cech’s arrival to Arsenal, his then captain John Terry was quick to claim in an interview with the Guardian “He will save them 12 0r 15 points a season”. But having spent over 2 years at the club now, you would be hard-pressed to find an Arsenal fan that can find those supposed points that he was meant to save us. Too many times there have been apologies on social media for mishaps during the games and far diminished output has been seen on the pitch since his arrival. Lest we forget, Cech wasn’t the first team choice at Chelsea for a reason. He was relegated, and correctly so, to the bench for the younger and better Thibaut Courtois.
A club that is supposed to be ‘competing against the best’ should have a reliable goalkeeper between the sticks. When the defence is wilting and the only reason the team comes away with anything substantial lies at the gloves of the goalkeeper. This is the scenario that Arsenal fans thought we would be getting when Cech joined the club. But instead, we have seen only glimpses of what we would expect on a regular basis and far too many blunders that have cost us points against teams that should be put away with consummate ease.
At the age of 35, Cech isn’t getting any younger and subsequently, his movement and reactions have diminished significantly from his prime years at Chelsea. At the peak of his powers, Cech could command the penalty box with authority, marshalling the whole defence to be where they’re supposed to be. When a deep cross would come in the box, you could hear Cech’s voice loud and clear and feel his presence coming to pluck the ball from the air. However, when the ball comes in the area now, panic ensues. There is a lack of communication between him and the defenders and Cech can’t be counted on to save Arsenal from an onslaught if it was to happen.
To emphasise this point, simply look at the goalkeepers at the clubs who are above us in the table. David De Gea (27), Thibaut Courtois (25), Hugo Lloris (31) and Ederson (24) all significantly younger and better than Cech right now. He isn’t completely to blame for this as of course, age and attrition have taken their tolls on his body. But the intangibles that were expected to come along with Cech being at the goalkeeper position surely can’t be seen. All the aforementioned goalkeepers can be considered to be in the ‘world class’ bracket right now while Cech can barely get a sniff. They can be counted on to perform and win their team a game if the outfield players aren’t performing up to their capabilities, the same cant be said for Cech on a consistent basis.
It’s been a sad fall from grace for Cech and come the end of the season, he will be 36 years old. Arsenal must make the goalkeeper position a priority in the summer because the options that are currently at their disposal don’t come close to the other elite teams in the league. Cech has had his moments and has no doubt saved us from some games in the past, but those supposed 12-15 points a season that were guaranteed are nowhere to be found.