This is the second instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
Following our analysis of Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech is the next man to fall under FFC’s microscope.
The former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper, who has decided to hang up the gloves and accept a role back at Stamford Bridge as the club’s new sporting director, looks set to exchange clean-sheets for spreadsheets.
Cech enjoyed four seasons at the Emirates Stadium after leaving west London for a new venture.
The goalkeeper’s time at Arsenal has been mixed, but there will be no doubts about his legacy in English football after winning countless trophies and breaking records, all after recovering from a horrendous head injury.
As his career in football takes a major shift, what legacy does Cech leave behind from his Premier League career?
Petr Cech arrived at Chelsea in 2004 as one of Jose Mourinho’s first signings, and he remained a regular at the club up until his final season, when he was eventually replaced by Thibaut Courtois.
It didn’t take the Czech goalkeeper long for him to construct a reputation as one of the best in the league, if not in the world, as he set a new record for clean sheets in a solitary Premier League season with a whopping 24. Mourinho was a mastermind in the defensive arts but he had a fundamental tool between the sticks to enable his vision.
However, a dark day at the Madejski Stadium in 2006 saw him suffer a career-defining head injury, one so severe that genuine concerns were raised about potential danger to his life, but thankfully he recovered and continued to enjoy an esteemed career in the game.
Cech made a remarkable comeback and resumed his spot as Chelsea’s number one, winning four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and the Champions League during his time at the club.
It wasn’t until Cech’s fourth title winning campaign – during Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge – that the fan-favourite began to lose his place in the starting XI to a young Courtois, who had impressed during three loan spells at Atletico Madrid.
The rise of the Belgian prodigy forced him to depart in search of regular first time football, which he acquired after completing a transfer to Arsenal that stirred the pot without totally inducing uproar from Chelsea fans.
His spell in north London was supposed to bring about a new era for the Gunners in which the club would leave their goalkeeping woes behind, but this new chapter never took off.
Despite showcasing fleeting bursts of quality throughout his time at Arsenal, equally there were moments to forget as the stopper’s zenith seemed to fade further and further into the distance with every passing season.
Starting with a poor debut performance at the Emirates in a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham, Cech later found his feet and went on to have a strong first year across the capital, breaking the all-time Premier League record for clean sheets in the process, surpassing David James’ previous record of 169.
His final game for the Gunners was far from befitting of the sendoff his career merited. Unai Emery’s men were beaten 4-1 defeat by his former employers in the Europa League final, though without his contribution the scoreline could have been even more damning.
Cech has won every trophy there is to win at club level in England, so he’ll surely retire with no regrets about the way his career turned out, especially after his miraculous comeback from injury.
The goalkeeper made a combined 443 Premier League appearances for both London clubs, registering over one thousand saves and finishing his career with 202 clean sheets – a record which will take some beating.
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There will be no sweeter moment in Cech’s career than his penalty save against Arjen Robben in the Champions League final.
Against all the odds Chelsea made it to the showpiece finale, and having survived a Lionel Messi penalty in the semi-finals, the 6ft 5 presence had to step up once again.
After being tripped by Drogba in the penalty area, Robben stepped up and fired his penalty into the arms of Cech, who held on to end the danger temporarily. While there are a whole host of great saves made by the Czech goalkeeper, he’ll reflect on that penalty save as one of the most important in his career.
That Cech managed to achieve on such a gargantuan scale both individually and collectively after suffering such a freak and ghastly injury underlines what an outstanding professional he was.
Cech should be thought of as nothing but a Premier League legend. While most of his best work came at Chelsea, there were moments of his vintage self at Arsenal that reminded us all of his immense talent.
He won’t go down as an Arsenal legend for the simple reason that he’s never found his best form nor helped to lead the club onto better things since he arrived, though that’s not to say he wasn’t a good signing for the club.
He will, however, be remembered as a Premier League legend, and it’s right that his achievements over his career are acknowledged, as is his professionalism, dedication, bravery and persona throughout it all.