Petr Cech’s transfer from west to north London has been one of the more surprising, and perhaps controversial, deals of the summer thus far. The Czech Republic international was pushed out of the starting XI at Stamford Bridge by Thibaut Courtois and was on the hunt for first-team action as he approaches the twilight of his glittering career.
Arsenal are yet to delve into the transfer market for a second time and the fans are, as a result, putting a significant amount of pressure on the broad shoulders of the ex-Chelsea man. The Gunners have a long way to go to make up the gap between themselves and Cech’s former club, and that is going to take more than the addition of a goalkeeper.
Cech’s former captain, John Terry, claimed that the signing of Cech will be worth up to 15 points for Arsenal. If Cech is worth that many points, Arsenal would be above Chelsea on the basis of last season, but are ‘keepers really worth that much alone?
This is seemingly the summer of the stopper. The media and fan bases worldwide are getting extremely excitable about the men between the sticks, even though a top class goalkeeper is not a necessity to be a dominant team. If a side can boast a water tight defence (like John Terry was often a part of in front of Cech at Chelsea) then the goalkeeper needs to be no more than a reliable component.
Cech’s signing may help Arsenal in minor ways, such as communication and a greater feeling of security for the backline, but the defence as a unit matters far more than the ‘keeper himself. Unfortunately for Arsenal, this suggests that Cech alone will not make a significant difference for their side.
Per Mertesacker will still be exposed whenever the defence is up the pitch and Laurent Koscielny, despite his growing reputation, is prone to errors that can leave any goalkeeper under unnecessary pressure. When it comes to the full-backs, questions are still present over the defensive quality on both sides with Hector Bellerin and Mathieu Debuchy inexperienced and inconsistent respectively, whilst Nacho Monreal’s late season form has postponed any plans for a left-back addition.
A defence must work well as a unit and a goalkeeper, however good, cannot save a side that is prone to defensive fragility. In terms of back-up, Calum Chambers, for all the potential he has, is still massively short of the experience required to be a key figure in a title-challenging defence. Meanwhile, Kieran Gibbs, as back-up to Monreal, has failed to truly establish himself as a top-level full-back.
Aside from the defensive short falls, the importance of a goalkeeper should not be overplayed in the regeneration of a side. The continued failure to add a high-class defensive midfielder is a far more telling sign of where Arsenal’s season could be heading. Missing out on Morgan Schneiderlin could prove massively hurtful for the Gunners and Wenger should not be placing too much hope in Cech’s ability to push them towards the title.
Arsenal’s issues are far bigger than the addition of a goalkeeper and David Ospina may feel slightly hard done by to be replaced after a relatively solid first season at the Emirates Stadium. Understandably, Arsenal wanted to improve their goalkeeping department, and a signing of Cech’s stature is going to make for improved defensive confidence, but if the club think he will provide the difference between a battle for Champions League football and a potential title win they are a long way wide of the mark.
If previous summers are anything to go by, it could be a long wait before Arsenal add anyone who could make the difference. Petr Cech’s brilliance at his peak should not be overlooked, but Arsenal’s problems will not all be solved by a goalkeeper, a sentiment that plenty of clubs should look to follow.