The trouble with consistency is it gets taken for granted. When all is said and done, I do not think that Petr Cech was ever lauded as he should have been. With his move to Arsenal that’s unlikely to change
He’s not flash, he does not produce save after save, but principally because he hasn’t had to. He’s not splashed all over the pages of the tabloids. Cech is quiet, unassuming, calm, a leader and potentially one of the best goalkeepers around. So why have we sold him?
It is because Chelsea are being pragmatic, and promoting a goalkeeper who they are hoping will be there for as long as Petr, potentially giving the club even more. Many suggest that Petr is the better keeper. I do not think that there can be any argument to the contrary, but taking into account the disparity in their ages, Thibaut is not far behind, which is remarkable. It’s an old cliché but keepers do improve with age. The experience and positional awareness added to the general skill make this the case. In my opinion Chelsea had no choice — they could not afford to lose Thibaut.
I have always been frustrated that Cech only received the fans adulation when he became second choice. The roar he got when he came on as substitute against (ironically) Arsenal last year was the biggest cheer he’d ever received. He was never heralded like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba or John Terry until the prospect of his departure became a possibility. Arguably his contribution was just as important.
Is this going to hurt us? Possibly, but I think Arsenal are still at least four players off of where we are and possibly a manager.
Cech’s major strengths have been his shot stopping and his amazing concentration. For all of the praise heaped on Thibaut (and rightly so) the save of last season was Petr’s wonder save against Romelu Lukaku at home to Everton. He spent an evening as a virtual spectator, and with very little time left on the clock at 0-0 he made a point blank save which undoubtedly went a long way to securing the title.
Because of Chelsea’s general dominance of fixtures since Cech has been at the club, it is hard to pick out many games where we have been under the cosh and he has kept the opponent at bay. If, however, you think of individual saves it is hard to think of a finer reaction keeper. The saves from Andy Carroll and Javier Hernandez in the FA Cup both defied logic. The night against Barca where we won 4-2 at home was amazing on many levels, but Cech produced some amazing saves that night which are never spoken about.
His recovery to the “top table” following the horrendous injury at Reading is also nothing short of miraculous. His finest hour was the Champions League final — a quite stunning performance — but I would argue his performance in the second leg at the Nou Camp was better. He spread a calming influence to a defence that had lost both Terry and Cahill within 30 minutes. He then had to organise a back line which included Jose Boswinga and at various times John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Raul Meireles. That’s no mean feat against one of the best teams of all time, containing arguably the greatest player of all time.
Does he have any weaknesses? After his injury it could be argued that he never effectively dominated his area. It when Thibaut made his debut against Burnley, it was interesting to hear the excellent Gary Neville waxing lyrical about a keeper commanding his area and not punching when it was just as easy to catch the ball. This has been a common theme throughout the season, and perhaps an indication of something we had been previously lacking?
I cannot think of too much else wrong with Cech. Perhaps he is becoming more injury-prone as he is becoming older, but to be fair I’m now scraping the barrel.
The man leaves with a massive legacy, but will his reputation be tarnished by this move? I hope not, but logic is not something which is normally associated with passionate football fans. Am I angry? On the whole, yes, but I am not bitter, and will give him the respect he deserves upon his return.
The one thing I cannot fathom is why there. Yes, it is difficult to uproot your family, and family must come first. London is the easy option, but Cech never struck me as a man who didn’t get the rivalry thing. It is difficult to think that this was not an issue having been with us for 11 years. I also do not perceive that he is a man who wants to shove his “rejection” down Chelsea’s throats, but as a fan it is all about perception. We never really know.
Roman has been very classy in allowing this to happen. Ironic, really, as the club that abuses us the most in the so called “classless” stakes is Arsenal. My biggest fear in all of this is not Cech going, but rather the possible collateral damage to Jose’s new-found relationship with Roman.
I shall leave you with this cautionary tale. This is not a prediction for the future.
“He was transferred to arch-rivals, Arsenal, …… thinking he was nearing the end of his career. However, he saw off rivals for the goalkeeper’s jersey to play for Arsenal for another eight years. Whilst there he helped Arsenal to four Cup finals in three successive years….. as well as the European Cup Winners Cup final that year. However, Arsenal only managed to win the second of these finals, a 3-2 victory against Manchester United……”
The above is about the great Pat Jennings, who was discarded by Spurs in 1977.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits