After equalling the Premier League record for clean sheets last weekend, Petr Čech goes into Monday night’s clash with Manchester City looking to set a new benchmark for goalkeeping in England.
For too long, goalkeeper has been a problem position for Arsenal, so it’s no surprise that the club acted so decisively to snap up the experienced 33-year-old in the summer. However, even then, it was hard to guess quite how big his impact would be.
“I met him before I signed him,” Arsène Wenger told the press before Monday’s game against Manchester City. “We had a long discussion about the game and the job and his position, and I was deeply impressed by his knowledge, by his professionalism, by his detailed knowledge.
“So since I have not been surprised, because I got the whole package in one go.”
Čech’s first official Arsenal game saw him keep a clean sheet against his former employers at Wembley, but the Premier League season started without the assurance his signing was expected to bring. Two poor goals gifted West Ham United all three points on the opening weekend of the season.
Since then, the goalkeeper has more than made up for it. Stunning saves have contributed to crucial results against Liverpool, Bayern and Norwich City among others. Arsenal’s defence looks fairly solid, and will face another huge test against Manchester City on Monday evening.
“He has brought his experience, his calmness and his leadership as well,” said Wenger. “He has been good and highly focused.
“I don’t want to be detrimental to David Ospina because he was exceptional last year, but Petr Cech has done it all, so he is someone who gives you an aura, a charisma that is always important in the big games for the players.
“You always look around you in the dressing room before a big game and you think, ‘Are we strong enough?’ And these kind of faces help you to believe it.
“Also in the big games, the number of shots on target shrinks. But then the one save can be the difference in the end result.”
That’s the difference that Čech made as Arsenal beat Bayern Munich in October, and it’s a difference he must continue making if the Gunners are to win the league this season. Monday’s game against Manchester City is huge and, if called upon, Čech must keep Arsenal in the game.
It’s a tricky job, with huge levels of pressure and scrutiny, but there’s no replacement for quality an experience, and the Czech international has both of those in abundance.
“There is no history of teams winning things without having a great goalkeeper,” the Arsenal boss insisted.
“I’m now 30 years in the job and as I said the other day you learn over the years that the goalkeeper is the most underrated position in football – and maybe the most vital one for winning things.”
Those things go beyond personal accolades like a clean sheet record, but should Čech set a new record on Monday he will drive his team one step closer to the Premier League title.