Arsene Wenger admits he had doubts over signing Petr Cech
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has come out and humbly admitted that he was not sure about signing Petr Cech from Chelsea. The Czech international moved to Chelsea’s rivals in the summer after spending 11 successful years at Stamford Bridge.
Considered as one of the best goalkeepers to grace the Premier League, Cech has been instrumental in Arsenal’s success this season, as the Gunners are fighting at the top end of the table, residing at top spot before this Premier League weekend started. Chelsea, on the other hand, are just 4 points above the relegation zone, in stark contrast to Cech’s current team.
Cech holds the record for the most clean sheets in the Premier League with 172 shutouts in 355 appearances.
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But, Wenger, in his 19th season as Arsenal manager, revealed that he was sceptical of signing Cech due to the physical nature of the league as well as the presence of David Ospina.
“Look, it was a very, very difficult decision (to sign Cech) for me because I highly rate Ospina,” Wenger explained. “I have a high opinion of him. Ospina is a goalkeeper who, in my opinion, is underrated, especially in England.”
“Cech is like a coach”
He went on to praise the 33-year-old and admitted that had he not given the nod for the signing of Cech, he would have regretted it.
“But (signing Cech) was maybe one of the few opportunities to say, 'OK, this is obvious'. It was more to say, 'If I don't do this, it would have been a mistake' I think,” said Wenger.
“He has a calming presence, he communicates well, anticipates well, sees what is coming.”
The 66-year-old said that Cech is like a coach on the pitch as he can see the entire game developing from the goal.
“He is a kind of coach. The best position to be a coach is the goalkeeper - because he doesn't move, and he sees everything. He is the camera behind the team,” the Arsenal manager quipped.
Wenger doubted Cech’s physical condition
He revealed that a meeting with Cech ahead of the summer transfer convinced him to sign the then-Chelsea goalkeeper and removed any lingering doubts of Cech’s fitness as he had mainly warmed the bench at Stamford Bridge owing to Thibaut Courtois’ form.
Wenger said, “I didn't know what kind of shape he was in physically because he hadn't played. (But) When I met him I was quickly reassured of his desire to do well and his motivation. I didn't know how much he could still produce physically.”
“He hadn't played and was battling a drop in physical aptitude. But I knew the potential was exceptional having played against him (for) 11 years in the Premier League. It was a question of, 'Physically, can he still do it?"”
Arsenal entertain Chelsea at home in the Premier League tonight as they look to inflict further misery on Guus Hiddink’s men and reclaim the top spot taken from them by Leicester on Saturday. The match at the Emirates Stadium kicks off at 9.30 pm IST.