As of today, it looks unlikely that Arsenal will be able to add Karim Benzema or any other goal-scoring threat to their squad this transfer window – however, the fans will likely have their bit of consolation in the “goal-defending” department, where things are starting to look quite good.
Here, of course, we are talking about Petr Cech. The former Chelsea man was in somewhat quivering form during Arsenal’s first two Premier League games this season. However, on Monday, during the match against Liverpool, his performance was nothing short of phenomenal.
The game between The Gunners and The Reds was extremely open – the sort of match in which the midfield vanishes, and defensive errors and goal scoring chances proliferate. And, time after time, Cech’s incredible last-minute saves were there to maintain a clean sheet for his team.
Now, it has been somewhat of a weird start for Cech, whose level since he joined the Gunners has been an absolute roller coaster. In his debut, the Community Shield match against his former team, Chelsea, Cech was the man-of-the-match: he produced a number of ridiculous saves that allowed his team to win by the minimal advantage and lift the title.
Yet, after that, his first two matches were not all that great. He made an awful mistake rushing out of goal in the loss against West Ham that cost the team a goal; and didn’t look very sharp in the following game against Crystal Palace.
Still, everyone in the Premier League knows what Cech is all about: consistency, nerve and, overall, quality. And after the Liverpool match, the man in the helmet looked like he was ready to clear the adaptation process and return to his best shape – particularly during the first 45 minutes, in which he magnificently saved a point-blank finish from Christian Benteke, and, minutes later, a Messi-esque curler off Phillippe Coutinho’s right boot.
“Petr Cech saved us two or three times in the first half – during that period he was outstanding,” said Arsene Wenger, who joined in on the praise after the match.
“Cech had a period of 10 to 15 minutes when he made some magnificent saves,” he added.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, speaking about Cech’s mesmerizing performance is, by definition, speaking about their backline’s problems. Particularly during that first half, the Gunner defense looked extremely nervous, and especially error-prone. Of course, that was in part, how Cech got his chance to shine.
At the heart of the defense, were Gabriel Paulista and Callum Chambers, two relatively new additions to the first-team squad, who had hardly lined-up together before, and who looked shaky on and off the ball. That, paired up with Arsenal’s left-backs’ tendency to give up possession in dangerous spots, spelled a recipe for disaster. One that only Cech was able to control.
“Today was one those games where I was in the right place at the right times and helped the team overcome a difficult moment in the first half,” the goalkeeper told Sky Sports after the match.
And moments like those are precisely why Cech’s form will be essential for the Gunners this season. Sure, their defensive organization and injury problems will probably get better over time, but, in the mean time, the team need a safety-net – one that will not only win points, but also keep the team from collapsing into its own chaos.
“When you start with a new club and everything goes wrong, you need to bounce back and this is what I tried to do,” added Cech.
Cech, now 33 years old, joined Arsenal from Chelsea in July for a huge transfer fee of $16 million.
Since his arrival at Emirates, he has been Wenger’s goalkeeper of choice, above Colombian international David Ospina.