Petr Cech is on the brink of ending his 11-year association with Chelsea, where he won 13 major trophies. The goalkeeper has undergone a medical at Arsenal ahead of an £11million move which, when confirmed, will be one of the most significant of the summer. Big players do not often move between big English clubs and yet that is what Cech will do this weekend.
Even as Chelsea’s second-choice goalkeeper, he played 16 games last season, and his departure will surely diminish the champions. His arrival at Arsenal can only improve their chances of challenging for their first league title since Cech signed for Chelsea 11 years ago.
Cech’s remarkably successful time at Chelsea explains why the club has generously allowed him his preferred, if unlikely, move. Chelsea do not willingly sell their best players to clubs who can hurt them but for Cech an exception has been made. It says everything about the debt of gratitude felt to the 33-year-old by the club or, to be more precise, its owner Roman Abramovich.
It has been clear for some time that the decision to sell Cech comes from the very top of the club, even above the manager Jose Mourinho. Discussing Cech’s future at a press conference early last month, Mourinho publicly revealed that he might be powerless to keep him at Stamford Bridge. Explaining why, in this instance, he would not get his way, he said: “One thing is Jose Mourinho and another is Mr Abramovich, and another thing is the board, because the board is a little bit of me and a little bit of other people.
“If it was [up to] me, if it was my decision, the decision is Petr to stay. That is it. It would be my decision for Petr to stay. After that, to go but not in England. The option I don’t want is for him to go to an English club.”
Yet that is precisely what will happen and it is a reminder, if one were needed, that even the most famous manager in the world still answers to someone else. Mourinho said at the time that he would “accept” whatever the club decided and that is now what he will have to do.
If Abramovich allowing Cech to join Arsenal is the loyal, emotional decision, then Mourinho’s position is the rational one. After Chelsea lifted the Premier League trophy on 24 May, Mourinho said that they had “the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League”. It may just have been part of a campaign of flattery to keep Cech at Stamford Bridge, but it was not an absurd exaggeration.
Even after losing his place in the first team to Thibaut Courtois last season, Cech was impressive whenever called upon, producing important performances in the Premier League against Arsenal, Everton and Leicester City, making saves which helped Chelsea win the title. Mourinho said at the end of the season: “I am not sure, if Petr was not here in those seven matches, if we could be champions.”
There is no doubt that Cech will seriously improve Arsenal, giving them more experience, quality and security in goal than they have had at any time since David Seaman left 12 years ago. Moreover, Cech is likely to give Arsenal years of good service.
Whether he will make up the difference in the Premier League table between Arsenal and last season’s champions Chelsea – a 12-point gap – is unlikely. Arsenal need upgrades elsewhere, too. But he will definitely make that gap smaller.Reuse content