Chelsea's reluctant loss of Petr Cech could be Arsenal's doubtful gain
Arsene Wenger chose to get himself in a war of words with Garry Monk after he saw his Arsenal side lose to Swansea on Monday, but the Frenchman would have been better placed to focus on how his team conceded the game’s only goal instead of how the Welsh side achieved their win.
It would surely not have been lost on Wenger that goalkeeper David Ospina was at fault for Bafetembi Gomis’ header creeping over the line as the Sky punditry team singled out for criticism the Colombian who remains no closer to solving Arsenal’s goalkeeping problem.
The future of Wojciech Szczesny, who hasn’t started a league game since New Year’s Day, is uncertain and although Ospina has been a significant factor behind Arsenal’s resurgence in the second half of the season, last summer’s £3 million acquisition from Nice is short of the reliable, dominant and experienced goalkeeper Arsenal require if they are to once again genuinely compete for the Premier League title.
Bayer Leverkusen’s £13 million Bernd Leno has been linked with a move to north London but reports involving Chelsea’s Petr Cech appear to be the more prevalent. On Friday Wenger avoided questions about a possible move for Cech, but it would surely make sense to attempt to lure away the 32-year-old who finds himself playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois.
With one year left on his current contract at Stamford Bridge, Cech would be available for a reduced price and would bring with him the expertise that won him four league titles as well as a Europa League and Champions League with Chelsea. He is Chelsea’s record clean sheet holder with 220 over 11 years with the club in which he has appeared in the PFA team of the year twice.
Taken from Rennes for £7 million in 2004, Cech is arguably one of the best signings of the Roman Abramovich era and he was a key feature of the Blues’ first two league wins under Mourinho, setting a new Premier League record of 1,025 minutes without being breached in 2005, only to see it bettered by Manchester United’s Edwin Van Der Sar four years later.
Cech’s search for regular football
However age has caught up with the Czech stopper and having been displaced by the excellent Courtois, nine years his junior, together with his contract ticking down, it seems as if his days at Stamford Bridge are numbered.
Cech, a fine servant throughout his career at both club and country level, such professionalism and loyalty continuously epitomised by the distinguishable helmet he wears to tell the story of the skull fracture he took four months to recover from in 2006, is undoubtedly able, and perhaps deserves, to again play first-team football for a club competing for major honours.
Inter Milan and Roma have been among the clubs rumoured to be eyeing the goalkeeper as his agent Viktor Kolar touts interest but Chelsea will take issue with Kolar’s motives given how much he is still revered by Jose Mourinho.
“I don’t know that it’s absolutely true what the agent is saying. Maybe it is, but the player has a contract with Chelsea and Chelsea will have a very important say in the decision,” said the Portuguese coach who has entrusted Cech to 15 appearances this season, including every game in the run to their League Cup triumph.
“I want my best players. Petr is one of my best players” he said on Friday, though Mourinho is wise enough to be aware that he has two of Europe’s top 10 goalkeepers on his books and it is unviable to deny one of them first-team opportunities. It is testament to Mourinho’s much lauded man-management skills that he has kept both of them happy for this long.
Cech’s invaluable nous will be an undisputedly huge boost to an Arsenal backline that has seen Per Metersacker and Laurent Koscielny forge a solid partnership but it can be questioned whether Chelsea would relinquish such a prized possession to a league rival. Czech media outlet Radio Praha have said Arsenal are willing to pay up to £10 million for the goalkeeper but it is easy to picture Mourinho’s determination to direct Cech’s future, if it is not at Stamford Bridge, anywhere but across the capital.
Mourinho has said he expects Cech to still be with his club next season but such optimism is clearly wearing thin. A mooted £2 million move for Rob Green, one of the few bright spots in QPR’s abysmal campaign, suggests he is looking for cover to Courtois whilst reluctantly bracing himself for Cech’s exit.
Where he goes to next is unclear, but Arsenal could definitely do with him.