After months of transfer rumors, Arsenal have reportedly agreed on a fee for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech in what will be a detrimental blow to the Blues.
Manager Arsene Wenger made a move for the Czech Republic keeper as early as the summer of 2013, and again in 2014, but Chelsea adamantly refused both times.
But the third time’s the charm as they have finally succeeded in snaring their long-awaited target following lengthy talks with Chelsea. Arsenal are fine-tuning the details of the transfer this week and the monumental transfer is all but official, with Cech set to undergo his medical exam for Arsenal in the middle of next week.
Arsenal fans are in celebration over what is already being hailed as the signing of the summer, perhaps even of the decade, if the former Rennes keeper’s form continues. However, Chelsea may show signs of regret over selling Cech to their bitter rivals, and rightfully so.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho never wanted to sell Cech to Arsenal – the Portuguese manager stated that he would rather the Czech stay with Stamford Bridge but if he had to leave, that he would go to a team in a different league, such as Paris Saint-Germain.
However, out of respect to over a decade of service to the Blues and due to his close relationship with club owner Roman Abramovich, Cech is being allowed to choose his next club with Abramovich’s blessing, a right he has earned after so many years. His top choice is Arsenal so he can stay in London in order to avoid uprooting his family.
While the decision to move to Chelsea’s London rivals benefits Cech, it spells trouble for his former club.
The fact of the matter is, Cech has exhibited world class performances in his 11 years with Chelsea, winning all there is to win with the club. His achievements include four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Community Shield twice, the Champions League and the Europa League.
Not only that, but he is still a top goalkeeper on par with the likes of Blues teammate Thibaut Courtois and shows no signs of slowing down. Although 33-years-old, his best days are still ahead of him.
Admittedly, Cech was replaced as first-team goalkeeper in the 2014-15 season by Courtois, and there’s no shame in that as the Belgian has performed exceptionally in goal.
However, had Cech remained Chelsea’s starting goalkeeper, he could have been nearly as efficient in goal, if not equally so. There’s no reason Arsenal shouldn’t expect him to serve them well for many years to come, making this deal a profitable one for Chelsea’s London rivals.
In addition to Cech’s longevity, his signing also solves Arsenal’s goalkeeping problem. Arsenal’s two current goalkeepers, Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina, have failed to impress or consolidate their place between the sticks, causing Wenger to press even harder to sign Cech.
Last season, Szczesny played 17 games, earning three clean sheets. In the other 14 games he played, he conceded 21 goals, with a percentage of 68.2% shots saved. Ospina performed better, playing 18 games, conceding 11 goals, and earning 8 clean sheets. His percentage of shots saved was 81%.
However, despite playing in only seven league games, Cech managed to earn five clean sheets (coming on as a sub in one of those games) and only concede two goals, putting his percentage of shots saved at 88.9%. In the little time he got on the pitch, the 33-year-old demonstrated his continuing excellent form, proving that he is still of first-team material.
The Czech’s transfer is so significant to Arsenal and Chelsea that Craig Hope of the Daily Mail compared it to Manchester United’s signing of Robin Van Persie in 2012.
While goalkeepers are generally underrated in English football, a strong shot-stopper can mean the difference between a good team and a great team. The 33-year-old has the potential to be as devastating to Arsenal’s title rivals, including Chelsea, as Van Persie was when he led United to their 13th Premier League title in his debut season.
Indeed, even Chelsea captain John Terry believes that Cech’s move could be instrumental to Arsenal’s league success, stating he believes Cech will “improve whatever side he goes to.”
“There is obviously talk of Arsenal signing Petr and if they do get Pete, that will strengthen them for sure. He will save them 12 to 15 points a season.”
Last season, 15 points would have put the Gunners ahead of the Blues, producing a very different Premier League result. In fact, 15 points in any season in recent years would have made a significant impact for the Gunners as Arsenal are known for fourth place and title challenges that collapse.
In the 2014-15 season, they worked their way up the table, eventually managing to sit at second place, only to fall back to third in the end. Arsenal never really established themselves as a threat to Chelsea’s title claim, and the Blues were never concerned.
However, they should be once the transfer has been completed. With a strong leader and experienced shot-stopper in goal, Arsenal are much stronger contenders in the 2015-16 title race.
Considering the implications of Arsenal’s signing of Cech, £11 million may not be enough to compensate for the daunting threat the Gunners could pose to Chelsea’s quest to reclaim the league.
And the Blues could be feeling the repercussions of their sale as early as August 2nd when they face the Gunners in the Community Shield, where Cech will be making his Arsenal debut against his former side.