Since his appointment in 1996, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has made some extremely shrewd player purchases. Eventual greats such as Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Cesc Fabregas and Nicklas Bendtner (sorry, I had to) were all brought in over the Frenchman’s first eight campaigns in north London. Following the financing of the Emirates Stadium, one of the more beautiful soccer stadiums in all of Europe, Wenger has been at it again.
Despite the fact that the Gunners’ gaffer receives plenty of flak for being a “penny pincher,” he shocked much of the soccer world with the £42.5 million deal for Real Madrid’s Mesut Özil in the summer of 2013. Wenger followed a year later with a successful £35 million bid for Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez. The costly duo compose one of most talented tandems in the entire Premier League and have already guided the Gunners to multiple pieces of silverware. While many around the world expected Wenger to make more substantial signings in the summer of 2015, Arsenal’s only move was for goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Wenger was certainly ripped for not signing a single outfield player during the summer transfer window; however, the deal for the Czech Republic international and Premier League legend was an exquisite piece of business. Not only did the Gunners massively improve at the goalkeeper position, something that the club have struggled with heavily since the days of Jens Lehmann, but they also acquired Cech from one of their local rivals, Chelsea.
Former Blues boss Jose Mourinho made the decision to go with Thibaut Courtois (one of the top goalkeepers in the world) between the sticks in 2014-15, which meant that Cech was relegated to the bench. With the 33-year-old not in the position to pack it up and become a backup for the remainder of his contract, he respectfully asked to make the 10-mile switch to Arsenal. Upon understanding that the Gunners were willing to meet Chelsea’s £10 million asking price for their legendary keeper, Chelsea’s brass granted Cech’s wishes to depart the club.
Following the transfer, Chelsea captain John Terry stated that his former teammate would be worth 12 to 15 points for Arsenal, and he wasn’t lying. It did not take very long for Cech to settle in with his new club, and he has been as important as any other player in the team this season. Big saves against Chelsea (Community Shield), Liverpool, Bayern Munich (Champions League), Manchester United, Everton and most recently Newcastle have all helped win matches or preserve draws.
Cech’s nine clean sheets, 47 saves and 3.13 saves per goal allowed in league play this season outdo Joe Hart, David de Gea, Hugo Lloris and Courtois. But his shot-stopping ability is just the tip of the iceberg. The Arsenal keeper’s distribution has been top notch as well. A passing percentage of 65% beats de Gea and Hart, and is 16 points higher than his former Chelsea teammate Courtois.
Along with his play, Cech’s leadership cannot be undervalued. Arsenal’s current go-to defensive backline includes two Spaniards, a Frenchman and a German, and Cech speaks in different languages to help communicate with them better. Fullbacks Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin can also take more chances up the side of the pitch and aide the offense a little more than they would have perhaps done in the past due to the reliability and stability with Cech in goal.
With Arsenal currently leading the Premier League, they are obviously legitimate title contenders, and a big part of that is because they now have stability at the goalkeeper position. If, in fact, the Gunners were to bring home the title (there are still 18 matches left on the schedule), the Cech signing would undoubtedly go down as one of the most important acquisitions in the Wenger era.
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