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Keepy Up – why Petr Cech is one of the great goalkeeping signings (twice)

In many ways, Arsene Wenger is a lot like Morrissey. Bear with me.

by Andrew Boulton | July 10, 2015

Both will gladly vomit their petty grievances into any and all passing ear canals. Both look more like aggressively baked jacket potatoes than adult men. And both, invariably, have some difficulty getting what they want.

Oddly though, the days of Wenger approaching his transfer business like a schoolboy shaking a vending machine at the swimming baths are over. Now, it seems, he gets whoever he wants, whenever he wants them – even when Jose Mourinho would rather gnaw off his own nipples than do business.

We are, of course, talking about Petr Cech and his almost unbelievable arrival at Arsenal. As signings go, this is one of the very few ‘crikey’ moments you’ll see all summer. It’s a signing that almost instantly transforms our perception of Arsenal from pretty, but flimsy, title-bunglers to a team that would make Pep Guardiola’s head sweat like a lizard’s nuts.

Cech

Cech arrives at Arsenal with a list of accolades so meaty it would make our friend Morrissey’s vegetarian mind burst open, showering startled onlookers in aubergine, hair pomade and angry songs about Wimpy.

Even if you dodge past Cech’s 4 Premier League titles and FA Cups, and back-flip past the Champions League and Europa Cup wins, you’re quickly smashed in the gullet by a club-record 220 clean sheets in all competitions and an astonishing Premier League clean sheet record of more than 48%.

Cech’s signing for Chelsea in 2004 was one of the defining moments in the Blue revolution. If we imagine at the time they were assembling a title-winning sandwich, then Cech was the bread, butter and at least two different continental hams. (In case you’re interested, in this analogy Adrian Mutu is a stalky bit of lettuce and Hernan Crespo is some warm Spam.)

Petr-Cech 800

 

  • Has Arsene got the title in the bag? We’ve got the odds here: Desktop | Mobile

His time at Chelsea compares favourably to even the most impactful goalkeeping signings in Premier League history. For example, Peter Schmeichel signed for Manchester United in 1991 for just £500,000 and by the time he left the club 8 years later he’d won 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and a treble-completing Champions League trophy. He also created a mountainous goalkeeping template that Sir Alex Ferguson tried and failed to match with Mark Bosnich (too cocky), Massimo Taibi (too flappy), Fabien Barthez (too wacky) and a few more.

Eventually Ferguson arrived upon another goalkeeper to deliver a Schmeichel-level transformation in the form of gangly Dutch stopper Edwin van der Sar. Like Schmeichel and Cech, big Edwin instantly changed a team that often defended with all the composure of a bee trapped in a man’s pants, into a calm and regularly impenetrable unit. Van der Sar still holds the Premier League consecutive clean sheet record for 1311 minutes without shipping a goal (a record that came to an end when he hilariously bungled a shot into the path of legendary penalty box hobo Peter Løvenkrands).

Wenger will be hoping that Cech is his Van der Sar, having himself experienced enough wobbly goalkeeping to make Neville Southall’s powerful moustache tremble like a dropped hamster. In fact, it could be argued that Wenger has never found anyone to match up to Jens Lehmann – another on the short list of goalkeeping signings that have genuinely transformed a team.

Robbie Keane and Jens Lehmann 2/9/2006

Lehmann’s arrival had the most dramatic of instant impacts, powering Arsenal on to their ‘Invincible’ season. Of course, for all the cat-like reflexes and remarkable game management, Lehmann also enjoyed screaming, surliness and occasionally hurling Robbie Keane to the ground. And although Lehmann still holds the goalkeeper’s record for most Premier League yellow cards in one season (8), his big angry boots were never especially filled by anyone quite as convincing.

That is, until the arrival of everyone’s favourite badly spelled Peter, who now has the chance to become the catalyst for not one, but two major Premier League teams.

Admittedly the move is probably a little tough on David Ospina who looked pretty impressive for Arsenal, and even more so in this summer’s Copa America. But, if Cech’s arrival can elevate the team in the way Schmeichel and Van der Sar did for United, the way Lehmann did for Arsenal and the way he has already done so remarkably for Chelsea, then it’s a signing that will represent far more than just an almighty hoof to Jose Mourinho’s gleaming silver gonads.

Petr Cech

And as much as Wenger enjoys a good gonad-hoof, a title-challenge that isn’t standing in a puddle of its own sick, wee, tears and self-loathing by November sounds better. It also, rather neatly, sounds like a Morrissey song.

  • Can Cech inspire Arsenal to the title? We’ve got the odds here: Desktop | Mobile
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