Arsene Wenger has tried to sign Petr Cech on three occasions.
The first time, when Cech was just 19, was thwarted by work permit issues. The second time, in 2004, he was gazumped by Chelsea’s megabucks following a degree of indecision. Finally, this summer, he got his man.
What might have been
The boss has previously mused on whether the acquisition of the then 21-year-old Cech, just as the Invincibles tied up their complete season unbeaten, would have diverted the course of history and stopped the media narrative of “ten years without a trophy” which ensued.
We’ll never know, but it’s not that far a stretch to believe that the Czech stopper’s talent and leadership could have made a difference at pivotal moments during that barren spell.
The 2008 vintage stands out as a particular candidate for “what might have been” had there been a little more experience and leadership at critical times. Perhaps Eduardo’s injury wouldn’t have had quite such a derailing impact, and perhaps Gallas’ stupidity wouldn’t have been quite so disruptive.
What might not have been
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Cech’s presence would have prevented those kind of episodes either. As a 21-year-old he still had much to learn, and part of the player he is today is born out of being an ever-present in a very successful Chelsea side.
In the Arsenal teams of the late 2000s – the nearly men, if you will – he could just as easily have become disillusioned and frustrated by the potential lack of success and inability to follow through to the bitter end. He could have left that Arsenal team in search of success and fulfilment, and instead we might not have him now, as an incredibly valuable part of our title push.
It’s all ifs, buts and speculation of course. One thing we do know for certain is that we now have a world class goalkeeper on our books at a time when the rest of the squad is resourced enough to compete for major honours and on multiple fronts.
Timing is everything
There is no guarantee Cech would have won us the trophies we craved between 2005 and 2014, but on the current trajectory then he could very well win us our first league title since White Hart Lane in ’04.
As Arsenal face Chelsea this weekend, our stopper will be very much the centre of attention, given his history with the Blues and his decision to move across the city. This time, he may be in a position to make a difference for the right team for a change.
Petr Cech has always been the right man for the Arsenal goalkeeping job, but in 2002 and 2004, it may not have been the right time.
Now is very definitely the right time.