After a weekend of speculation, a real transfer arrived on the scene to save the day. Petr Cech crossed London on his white charger and arrived in the sanctuary of Arsenal, having battled for years with the evil which raged south of the river. It wasn’t a straightforward journey, many twists and turns along the way but he made it. Daringly, he rode without headgear which is something I wouldn’t recommend, kids.
Cech’s arrival will no doubt be the spark which ignites Arsenal transfer activity. I’m not quite sure it is going to provoke a departure as quickly as John Lukic leaving for Leeds when David Seaman arrived but I don’t expect Arsène to have three international goalkeepers to choose from when the season begins.
Who leaves is a different matter. David Ospina admitted talks with Fenerbahçe whilst on duty at the Copa America but that has gone quiet beyond everyone remembering he admitted talks were taking place. The alternative is Wojciech Szczesny whose fall from grace was a masterclass in self-destruction. If Wenger believes the Pole is viable as first-choice in the long-term then a loan spell might be the path to redemption. I am sure that speculation will continue until Arsène speaks to the press next.
Cech hasn’t left the champions to become second-choice goalkeeper at the third-placed team but will, I expect, be the only new face in the defence. Madrid reportedly have their covetous eyes looking in Laurent Koscielny’s direction and his departure can’t be ruled out; every player has a price. But it seems unlikely that Arsène would want to sell such a pivotal player without someone of equal stature coming in.
The real test of Cech’s impact will be in the defensive performance. Ultimately it is going to come down to the stats, goals conceded, etc., but his biggest influence will be subjective to a certain extent. Can he bring the confidence they need when the ship is rocking. Cech knows Arsenal’s back four isn’t as well-disciplined as Chelsea’s, he will have seen that for himself first-hand but as goalkeeper, he will be expected to organise them during the game, correcting faults. It’s that discipline which will underpin a title challenge if it is to emerge.
Some were quick to wonder if a new ‘Safe Hands’ had arrived. I would suggest not, more equivalent to Pat Jennings arrival in 1977. Seaman was joining a team which had won the league two seasons earlier, with a defence which was already somewhat miserly. He improved it considerably in the first campaign, 1990-91 (more on that tomorrow), but thereafter, despite Graham’s reputation, Arsenal weren’t that much improved.
Jennings crossed north London to join a team that was on the verge of winning trophies. Tottenham thought his career over and sneered at Arsenal for signing him. Jennings proved them wrong by staying until 1985 as Arsenal became established in the top eight having been in relative freefall during Bertie Mee’s last couple of seasons. Chelsea don’t think the same of Cech, they know he has a few years left in him yet. If you don’t enjoy the arrival of Cech enough, David Hynter offers his thoughts why Arsène might view this as his first victory over Jose Mourinho.
Jennings experience changed Arsenal and the club began conceding less, 10 – 20 goals less during all bar one of his seasons at the club (and that was Terry Neill’s last at the club). That’s the impact I expect from Cech. You can’t put a measure of points on it but if Arsenal cut six or more goals out from last season’s tally, there surely has to be a title challenge emerging? Unless the forwards are misfiring, which is something you sometimes see as defensive tightness comes about but with the attacking variety Arsenal have, that ought to be a side issue.
As is obligatory in this internet age, Cech’s departure brought the social media death threat and abuse. Some will point to Chelsea’s classlessness whilst shifting uncomfortably knowing that Arsenal ‘supporters’ have previous in this type of behaviour. It defines this internet generation, abusive behaviour on social media is as much a defining characteristic of this era as mods and rockers, punk, new romantics and corporate greed were and remain in some cases.
Think before you drink before you type.