By Tom Hayward
ARSENAL have again been cautious spenders in the transfer market but by recruiting Petr Cech, one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, they have added some defensive substance to compliment their attacking style.
Back-to-back FA Cup victories ended a nine-year silverware drought, but Arsenal have not been relevant during the punishing grind of a 38-game Premier League title race for a number of years.
The north London club have addressed a number of issues which have held them back since the trophy-laden early years of manager Arsene Wenger’s reign came to an end in 2005.
Until the arrival of Cech from rivals Chelsea last month, however, one glaring concern remained unresolved.
Wenger, often maligned for a perceived reluctance to splash the cash, had invested heavily in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in previous close-seasons to make Arsenal one of the most dazzling attacking sides in Europe.
Their inability, however, to replace former keeper Jens Lehmann adequately following his departure in 2008 had prevented them laying the foundations from which to build a title-challenging side.
Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina have filled the void with limited success but they lacked presence and were guilty of high-profile errors which undermined Arsenal’s title desires.
Cech, however, the most successful goalkeeper in Chelsea history, arrives with an undoubted presence having secured his status as one of Europe’s premier stoppers for over a decade.
The 114-cap Czech international possesses a wealth of experience and a winning mentality having won four Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s, three League Cup’s and the Champions League and Europa League during 11 seasons at Stamford Bridge.
In front of him, Arsenal are an ever-improving defensive unit, the third stingiest in last season’s Premier League, but without a goalkeeping bedrock they were susceptible to conceding foolish goals.
Cech’s arrival will certainly boost the confidence of those stationed immediately in front of him.
At 33, he is still in his goalkeeping prime and will assume an on and off-field leadership role the club has missed sorely in recent seasons.
“The Arsenal fans thought it was Christmas (when Cech signed),” Arsenal’s goalkeeping great Bob Wilson said. “Just a ridiculous decision (from Chelsea), to allow him to go.”
Upon signing for the club Cech said: “Last season it was a great season (for Arsenal), but there was something missing, just a little last jump over the hurdle.”
Cech has all the attributes to be the man to carry Arsenal over that final hurdle.
As the footballing adage goes — a great attack wins you matches, a great defence wins you trophies.