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Petr Cech kept his 200th Premier League clean sheet on Saturday evening, saving a Troy Deeney penalty in the process no less, in a 3-0 win against Watford in the Cajones Derby.
They say the best things in life don’t come easy, and the Arsenal goalkeeper surely will vouch for the saying having needed 12 games or 84 days to finally complete the double ton after securing his 199th shut-out against Newcastle United on December 16.
He, a Champions League winner, signed for Arsenal in June 2015 for a measly £10 million. Upon the completion of the move, his former captain John Terry famously commented that he’d save Arsenal 12-15 points a season.
His being between the sticks for the Gunners was viewed as a huge upgrade on Wojciech Szczesny or David Ospina guarding the goal. Cech did leave the Arsenal supporters enthralled, producing a few miraculous saves, ones that haven’t been seen being pulled off by an Arsenal goalkeeper, perhaps since the departure of Jens Lehmann.
However, as the honeymoon period ended, his flaws – being beaten down to his right, never saving a penalty or reacting a bit too late oftentimes – began being so apparent that the observers began wondering if his being a wizard at Stamford Bridge was only down to better defenders playing ahead of him or he was merely regressing.
The fact that Chelsea were usually managed by defensive coaches such as Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti while Arsenal play a more open football didn’t help matters, either.
Statistics seem to support his detractors’ accusations, as he’s only averaged 0.37 clean sheets per game since moving to Arsenal while his time at Chelsea saw him keep a clean sheet every other game in the 333 games he’d started for them.
Many expected the Cech to be Arsenal’s Edwin van der Saar, who after playing his first game for Manchester United at 35 years of age, went on to guide them to four league titles and one Champions League triumph. Given the fact that the Arsenal goalkeeper, 35, only looks a shadow of his former self now, it’s now become evident that the Edwin can der Saar-Manchester United story is one you can’t easily recreate.
Cech himself is conscious of the dip in his performance level, as he, on the back of Arsenal’s recent morale-crushing defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, tweeted, “If you want to win a game away from home in the best league in the world, your GK can’t concede two goals like I did today.”
However, it mustn’t have been a knee jerk reaction, for he’s had such forgettable performance quite often this season. In fact, according to Premier League statisticians, no other top-flight player has committed more errors leading to goals than him, with six of his individual errors leading to goals this season.
That said, his arriving at London Colney ought to have helped the likes of Matt Macey, Dejan Iliev, Ryan Huddart, Emiliano Martinez and even his 29-year-old World Cup-playing understudy significantly, as his knowledge of the game ought to rub off on the youngsters.
His YouTube interviews with Arsenal’s official channel and other means through which the public has got a glimpse of his brilliance tells us that he’s the kind of veteran you need to have in the dressing room to enhance the personality and vibe of the entire team.
However, his recent regression means that the club needs to make him their second-choice goalkeeper to someone like Jon Oblak for the next couple of seasons before coaxing him to stay as a goalkeeping coach.
Cech may end up becoming one of the best signings Arsene Wenger’s made in the final years of his tenure, but he surely can’t be their undisputed first-choice stopper next season.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @PraveenR_P
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