Eye for Detail: Petr Cech

Last time Arsene Wenger signed a 33-year-old goalkeeper, Arsenal went unbeaten in the Premier League. Petr Cech is unlikely to replicate Jens Lehmann’s incredible ‘Invincible’ effort, but there’s little doubt Arsenal have signed a top-quality goalkeeper.

Cech needs little introduction to Arsenal supporters, have starred for Chelsea over an incredible 11-year period. His 162 clean sheets puts him second on the all-time Premier League list, just two behind David James, and there’s little evidence of Cech’s form declining since he’s reached his thirties, either.

Over the past three seasons, he boasts a save percentage of 78 per cent, the best of any goalkeeper in the Premier League. Cech also had a nasty habit of frustrating Arsenal. In his final ten appearances against the Gunners, he managed to keep six clean sheets, including home and away in 2013/14, his final season as a Chelsea regular before he was displaced by Thibaut Courtois.


Petr Cech

Petr Cech


It would be easy for Cech to remain a back-up for years, as Carlo Cudicini did when he was displaced by Cech. His determination to join a direct title rival, however, demonstrates his motivation to succeed.

“In a way it completes the circle. When I was 20 and playing for Rennes in France, only a work permit problem prevented me from joining Arsenal,” Cech said upon his unveiling. “The club matches my personal ambition - they want to win trophies. I spoke to Arsène Wenger and he played a big part. He gave me a project that is exactly what I want to be part of at this stage of my career.”

"Arsène Wenger gave me a project that is exactly what I want to be part of at this stage of my career"

Petr Cech

In basic terms, Cech won’t have to adapt significantly to meet the challenges of playing for Arsenal. He and his family are settled in London, he speaks English, he knows the demands of the Premier League. Goalkeepers are under immediate scrutiny from the outset, especially when playing for a big club, and these factors will ensure Cech makes the switch seamlessly.

On a different level, however, Cech will need to change his style of play. For Chelsea, he’s generally played behind a deep defence – Jose Mourinho’s two spells have seen Chelsea holding a line on the edge of their own penalty box, while various managers in-between preached a similar style of football.

The one exception was the reign of Andre Villas-Boas, who ordered his team to push much higher up the pitch, asking Cech to use a more aggressive starting position to sweep outside his box when required. The entire team wasn’t particularly comfortable with this, and Chelsea’s woes in this system were best epitomised by Arsenal’s famous 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in 2011, the only time Cech has conceded five in a Premier League game.


Petr Cech

Petr Cech


The defenders, rather than Cech, were the players who struggled most with the approach. Nevertheless, Cech might have to play a slightly different game at Arsenal.

The Gunners are a more attack-minded side who logically spend more time than most in the opposition half. This means more space in behind the defence, and while it’s not the outrageous style of football Villas-Boas demanded, Cech will need to adjust.

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In an era of goalkeepers being an eleventh outfielder, rather than a separate member for the side, Cech feels somewhat old-school in his calm, reserved approach. There’s little question about his goalkeeping ability, however. Clearly an outstanding shotstopper, as the aforementioned save percentage statistic confirms. Cech also remains excellent at commanding his area.

Some suggested he was less happy challenging in the air following the fractured skull he suffered at Reading in 2006, but he’s fully recovered from that setback, and is happy to play proactively when the ball is out wide. He’s the type of goalkeeper defenders can trust, because he’s consistently determined to come from his goal line to relieve the pressure.

Overall, it’s difficult to imagine Arsenal making a better goalkeeping signing. Cech is a great professional, knows the country and the league already, and has already won four Premier League medals. Hopefully, by the end of the campaign, that figure will be five – this could be one of Arsenal’s most important signings for years.


Petr celebrates with the Barclays Asia Trophy

Petr celebrates with the Barclays Asia Trophy


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