The need for a new number one next season is growing by the game. But who could we get?
It was a considerable coup when Arsenal announced the signing of Petr Cech in 2015.
Finally, we thought. A genuinely world class goalkeeper on par with the keepers at other top clubs. It was an area of the team that, since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008, had seen many temporary fixes but no permanent solution. Cech was meant to be just that.
Unfortunately, there was a reason why Chelsea decided it was time to let Cech, a club legend who had won so much with them, go in favour of the younger Thibaut Courtois, and Arsenal are now discovering it.
Cech’s decline has been subtle. His mistakes aren’t calamitous, but they’re noticeable. For every top save he pulls out, you’ll notice him let in a goal that he could have saved with better positioning. There are times when he misjudges the flight of the ball on set-pieces and flaps at a cross. Then there’s his penalty saving record, or lack of one; since joining Arsenal, Cech has failed to save a single penalty.
Of all the keepers Arsenal have had since 2008, Cech possesses by far the most quality. Yet, even goalkeepers can succumb to age, and it’s worth remembering that he’s 35 years old. A replacement has to be found sooner rather than later, and the more his form declines, the more pressing that need becomes.
A look at the club’s current options tells you that the solution is not going to come from within.
David Ospina is the backup keeper at the club but is wildly erratic; a keeper as likely to drop the ball into his own goal as he is to pull off a stunning close range save. The Colombian is okay for cup matches but his unpredictability makes it impossible to count him consistently. That he arrived before Cech did but didn’t convince Wenger enough to be made number one should tell you everything about his prospects at the club.
Beyond him is Emi Martinez, a player who’s been at Arsenal since he was 18 yet, at 25, has only made 53 first team appearances. The Argentine is on loan at Getafe, yet can hardly get a single game. He’s looking more like the next Stuart Taylor, a player who’s entire career has been spent as a perpetual backup, than a genuine contender to replace Cech.
The situation is made all the more baffling by the club’s decision to let Wojciech Szczesny go.
Szczesny had his own issues at Arsenal, but improved massively at Roma and is now heir to Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus. It’s rather twisted that Juventus will be replacing their own ageing, legendary keeper with one of our youth products when we should be doing the same.
The solution, then, has to come from somewhere else.
At this point, it’s hard not to be envious of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea, who signed extremely good young keepers in Hugo Lloris, David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois. They’re set for years while we’re scrambling around, looking for our own long-term choice after carelessly discarding a goalkeeping gem we’d nurtured since he was a teenager.
Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid is, perhaps, the stand-out choice, albeit one that would cost a fortune. If they can’t get him, Arsenal may be looking at another temporary fix again.
Someone who can improve on Ospina and Martinez, but not on Cech.
Inevitably, that means Cech will be number one next season. There are much worse choices, and at the very least, Arsenal do have someone with quality and experience to rely on.
They must be aware, though, that they can only rely on Cech for so long.