Cech can do for us what Van der Sar did for United, says Wenger
Published 01/08/2015 | 02:30
Arsene Wenger has been through seven goalkeepers since Arsenal last won the Premier League 11 years ago.
During the same period, Petr Cech has won the championship and FA Cup four times, the Champions League, the Europa League and the League Cup on three occasions.
It could all have been so different if Wenger and Arsenal had moved a bit quicker after the son of first-team coach Boro Primorac had raved about the ability of the goalkeeper playing with him at Rennes.
"When Petr went to Chelsea we were interested as the guy who brought him to England is a good friend of mine," recalled Wenger. "One of the guys who was the agent told me there was an exceptional 'keeper at Rennes.
"Also, one of my assistants, Boro Primorac, his son was a player in Rennes and he said they had a very good goalkeeper. So we knew, but I think Chelsea were a bit quicker than us and there was a work permit issue."
Now, Wenger has finally got his man and Arsenal have a top-class goalkeeper for the first time since Jens Lehmann helped the Gunners go through an entire Premier League season unbeaten, in 2003-2004.
Cech may be 33, but there is a feeling he can play at the top level for at least another four years and prove to be just as influential in the final years of his career at Arsenal as Edwin van der Sar was for Manchester United.
Alex Ferguson had tried 10 goalkeepers since Peter Schmeichel before signing 34-year-old Van der Sar from Fulham. The Dutchman played at Old Trafford for six years, helping them to win the Premier League four times, the Champions League and the League Cup.
"Petr's move is a bit like Van der Sar at that age," said Wenger. "He went from Fulham to Manchester United and still had five or six years in him there. So I don't see why Petr should not have a few years, he is very serious, trains well and has no big problem."
Arsenal have not had a goalkeeper who puts fear into strikers since Lehmann.
Wojciech Szczesny has the raw ingredients to be a top goalkeeper, but not yet the mentality, and has moved on loan to Roma to gain experience.
Manuel Almunia, Mart Poom, Vito Mannone, Lukasz Fabianski, Damian Martinez and, most recently, David Ospina possessed different degrees of talent, but none of them had a presence.
"Petr has a good combination between quality, agility, size. He looks like he was built for English football," said Wenger.
"I think he is a very bright goalkeeper as well. He has an intimidating presence, that is for sure. He makes the goals look small. That's the kind of charisma he has. He is a big size."
Cech has Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, to thank for allowing him to make the £10m move to title rivals Arsenal.
The transfer was a reward for 11 years of incredible service, but Lehmann believes the Czech Republic international will quickly have to forget any attachment with the Blues if he is to have similar success at the Emirates.
"Before you can have it in your heart to win titles again, you have to get rid of the love you had before," said Lehmann.
"As a professional, he must get over his relationship with Chelsea and needs to know that Arsenal want him to win things again for them. That is not an easy thing to get over psychologically... it can take a few weeks, even a few months for a player."
It is understood that, rather than being daunted by the prospect of facing his old club so soon, Cech is relieved to get the occasion out of the way quickly.
Arsenal's legendary goalkeeper David Seaman, whom Wenger was fortunate enough to inherit on his arrival at the club in 1996, believes Cech is exactly what the club need, but doubts whether he alone can be the difference this season.
"He's part of the jigsaw that's nearly finished," said Seaman. "It's not all about Cech. We still need a good centre-half and a Patrick Vieira or Yaya Toure-like midfielder.
"By bringing quality players in like Cech, that will be what we need to win the Premier League. He's got trophies behind him and I would say he's bang in the prime of his career. He's got at least another five or six years ahead of him."
Asked if Cech would still be missed by Chelsea, Seaman added: "I'm sure he will be. He's a character. He's a confident speaker and when you see him out in public, he loves talking about goalkeeping.
"It's a massive boost for Arsenal. It's what they needed. He must have had a list as long as his arm of clubs to go to, so I'm so happy he chose Arsenal."
Mourinho made Thibaut Courtois his main goalkeeper last season, but Cech still played a big part in helping Chelsea to win the Premier League title.
His performance in the 1-0 victory over Everton was one of the best goalkeeping performances of the campaign.
In his seven league appearances, Cech conceded only two goals and Chelsea won every game. No wonder captain John Terry declared the goalkeeper could be worth "12 or 15 points a season" to Arsenal.
Having initially recommended that Cech should either not be sold or be forced to move abroad, Mourinho claims he eventually changed his stance to fall in line with Abramovich's belief that the player should be able to choose his next destination.
Perhaps the biggest indicator that Mourinho believes Cech's signing could be important for Arsenal is the fact he was reluctant to talk about his former player ahead of tomorrow's game.
"I shouldn't speak about it," said Mourinho. "It's done. It's explained. We know why the club agree. We know that in the first phase I completely disagree.
"However, we know that later on I understood the reasons behind the decision and I change my position. So nothing more to say about it."
Mourinho did, however, dismiss the theory that Cech's successful record at Chelsea would now benefit their London rivals.
"For me, what is a winning mentality? I never know very, very well what it is," said Mourinho. "It's difficult to describe what is a winning mentality. Everybody wants to win, everybody works to win, everybody has ambition to win.
"Not everybody wins, not everybody wins regularly and so many times, but it is difficult to describe what is a winning mentality and what contributes to a winning mentality.
"The only way during my career I feel I can contribute to a winning mentality is the way we work."
Asked what reception Cech should receive from the Chelsea supporters at Wembley, Mourinho shrugged off the question in similar fashion, saying: "I'm not interested. I'm interested in the reception Chelsea fans will give to Chelsea players. I'm not interested."
One suspects that Abramovich and Chelsea have done Arsenal a big favour. Just how big may be slightly clearer after tomorrow's game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)