Cech: I wanted to break clean sheet record in style
Petr Cech will frame the shirt he wore for his record-breaking 170th Premier League clean sheet but, as he left the Emirates Stadium on Monday night, the reward that he really wants for his relentless consistency quickly became obvious. It is the fifth Premier League winners' medal that would equal Peter Schmeichel's final tally at Manchester United.
"What makes me happy the most is that these clean sheets so far brought four Premier League trophies," Cech said. "So hopefully we will add clean sheets and we will celebrate at the end of the season, because this is far more important."
For now, though, Cech plans to preserve the shirt he wore against Bournemouth complete with the signatures of all his Arsenal team-mates. He also knows that his proud father, Vaclav, will soon be updating the journal of his career that he has painstakingly assembled since his professional career began in 1999.
It is a record of almost constant achievement that has peaked over 12 seasons in England that already arguably make him the finest goalkeeper in Premier League history.
With 13 major trophies at Chelsea, Cech has accumulated more silverware than Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar and David Seaman. Perhaps most impressive of all, his ratio of clean sheets per game (0.48) is the highest of the Premier League era.
"I feel really proud because I believe that this is the best league in the world and one of the most difficult to play for a goalkeeper," Cech said.
"It's a great personal achievement but the most important was to win against Bournemouth. Once we got the 2-0 lead, I started thinking (about the record). In the last 10 minutes, I was checking the clock."
The record has been on his mind now for some months. He could potentially have broken it last season had Jose Mourinho not made the controversial decision to replace him at Chelsea with Thibaut Courtois and, earlier in this campaign, he went on Twitter to correct some erroneous reports about his cleansheet tally.
When he equalled David James's previous landmark of 169, he posted a photo on Twitter of a gingerbread man that his wife had baked with the number 169 drawn in icing.
"As I was approaching the number of David James and people kept reminding me, I had a look because I wanted to make sure that I knew when it could happen," Cech said.
"I wanted to have the record when I knew I had really done it. I like to do things the right way. My father has a kind of a chronicle of every game that I've played back home in the Czech Republic."
Bob Wilson, who was Arsenal's goalkeeper when they did the double in 1971 and later coached David Seaman, believes that Cech rather than Courtois, David de Gea or Manuel Neuer is now the best goalkeeper in the world.
"He has the experience, he has the stature," Wilson said. "He expects the unexpected which, as a goalkeeper, you have to do. I gather that he's an amazing guy around the dressing room and the training ground.
"Do you know what he did after the Southampton defeat on Boxing Day? He went into the away end, gave his gloves to one of the fans and said sorry to them.
"He's a special guy. Outside (Gianluigi) Buffon, who is still playing but is slightly vulnerable now, Petr Cech is the best and most experienced goalkeeper in the world."
David Coles, who coached David James into his 40th year, believes that, at 33, Cech is still "young" for his position and highlights his strength of mind. That has been evident both in how he has coped with the expectation since joining Arsenal and was able to move on immediately from mistakes in the first Premier League match this season against West Ham United.
"He is immaculate," Coles said. "People say it is easier at clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, but it is not. You have to be ready to do that one thing in the 89th minute that could decide a game.
"They play for these clubs because they are that good with their concentration and psychological skills. Some just give off that aura. When Cech walks in the goal, you know he is going to fill it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)