A world class performer, an experienced winner, a leader.
The first of what was hoped to be 3 or 4 signings in key positions that had been missing for so long. There was excitement abound.
Role on a little over 10 months, and the fairytale seems to be unravelling.
Arsenal failed to sign any other players, failed in the title bid, and now Pter Cech seems to be failing in goal.
At the time of signing Cech, Chelsea captain John Terry was quoted as saying he was worth 12 – 15 points this season.
He had a shaky start to his Arsenal career. In his first game he conceded from a free kick floated into the box that he got no where near. And for the second he was wrong footed, allowing a tame effort to roll into the back of the net.
But he redeemed himself as Arsenal launched a title challenge towards the end of the year. So much so that people started to talk about him being Arsenal captain for the next season.
At the back of 2015, Arsenal were in the title race, and Cech was looking like a solid foundation that the team was built on.
5 months later and the story is different.
It all seemed to go wrong in the home defeat against Swansea City. Cech, already playing with a slight groin strain, started to go forward for a corner, but pulled up short. Out for 4 weeks was the prognosis.
In came David Ospina, who kept 3 clean sheets in 7 games. Cech was fit for the West Ham game, but Arsene Wenger decided to stick with the Columbian. A gamble which failed to pay off.
Ospina failed to come and gather any of the crosses which lead to Andy Carroll’s goal. It led many to call for an immediate return of Petr Cech. Many questioning why he could be fit for the bench but not fit to start. His height and ability to come for crosses surely would have stopped the ball reaching Carroll?
Petr Cech returned from the Crystal Palace game, and it is at that point things continued to go downhill for the stopper.
He conceded a tame shot for Palace’s equaliser. Done to his right at his near post. A shot from the age of the area. Rolling back to that first game of the season, it was very similar. It was a shot that I would be disappointed to concede in 5 a side on a Thursday night.
3 back to back clean sheets in games where he had nothing to do but scratch his arse and things looked rosy once more. At the point after the Norwich victory, Cech actually led the way for the race for the Golden Gloves, alongside Kasper Kasper Schmeichel and Joe Hart.
And then we have Manchester City.
When Sergio Aguero scored, I felt Cech should have saved it.
When Kevin De Bruyne scored, that was no debate, he should have saved it. Once again, Petr Cech had been beaten from distance down towards his right hand side from a pea roller of a shot. For someone of his ability, it should not happen. Let alone happen the numerous times it has this season.
The statistics make interesting reading:
It is perhaps that last one that I think is most interesting.
Had it been David Ospina or Wojciech Szczesny who made the errors, the knives would be out for them. As it is Cech, there is merely a few rumblings.
Now I do not want to jump on a bandwagon, or start one, about a player who is a class act. Often here we have been criticised for giving players a bit of a rough time. I always feel it is an honest judgment, and we have praised players when doing well (Aaron Ramsey) and criticised when doing poorly (Jack Wilshere). And over times, opinions change. For a long time we have backed Theo Walcott. Recently that backing has gone.
You do have to wonder what is currently going on with Petr Cech. He is 34 in a month, and whilst this is not old for a goal keeper, he has been a regular since 2000. This is his 16th season as a professional. Add in the head injury he suffered in 2006 (can not believe that was 10 years ago!). His body has taken a lot of wear and tear.
Last season, he played just 16 games for Chelsea as Thibaut Courtois became Chelsea’s number 1. Maybe part of the problem is Cech himself adjusting to playing week in week out again?
And maybe Chelsea noticed something in his statistics which showed that Cech was losing his powers? At the time of Courtois replacing Cech as number 1, many assumed it was because Chelsea did not want to lose a talented young keeper, 10 year’s Cech, who could be number 1 for the next decade. They were equals, but Courtois was the future.
But in hindsight, maybe it was because Cech was the way down.
Every player is tested rigorously. Reactions. Strength. Jumping. Kicking. They would know what Cech’s results are. And what they were previously. Had their been a gradual decline. Reactions slowing. Jumping not as high. Being able to bench not as much. Pace over 10 years reduced. All of these would have indicated to Chelsea he was on the way out. Arsenal would not have had this data.
I am personally of the opinion that Petr Cech is still a class act. Jens Lehmann was an invincible at 34 years old, and played for the club until he was 39. David Seaman won the double with us at 39. Left us at 40. Age ain’t nothing but a number.
What we could perhaps do with doing is getting the team around Cech that he wants.
Christophe Lollichon has been with Petr Cech since his Rennes days. He is still at Chelsea. Recently it has been reported that he and Courtois do not see eye to eye. This summer Arsenal should pounce on the unrest at Chelsea and recruit the man who made Petr Cech a world class player.
At the end of the day, Cech is still one of the leagues top keepers. 15 clean sheets in 33 games in the league this season is not to be sniffed at. He has made errors, but he has also won us games with exceptional saves.
We seem to be in a world where everything has to be perfect. A striker should never miss a one on one. A defender never lose a foot race. A goal keeper never let in a soft goal. Everyone demands perfection. But in football perfection is an unrealistic bar to hold players too.
Players will make mistakes. They will lose form.
Form is temporary. Class is permanent.