Petr, welcome to Arsenal. How does it feel to have signed for the club?
It is exciting. I first came to the Premier League a long time ago and I still love playing in the Premier League and the challenges it poses with the great players and great teams you have to face every week. Arsenal are a team that challenge for the top and definitely matches my ambitions and personal motivation. I believe at this time of my career I have made a really good choice and will have the success that I hope to have.
What is about Arsenal that made you want to join the club?
I would say the approach. In the first meeting we had, I spoke to the manager, Arsene Wenger, and obviously it was a big difference because I am as hungry as ever and have the same motivation and commitment to win trophies as I had 10 or 15 years ago and as a kid. Having spoken to him, I believe I will find a team that wants to be successful and wants to challenge the best in Europe. It is an exciting project for me.
Having spent 11 successful years at Chelsea, it must have been a tough decision to leave?
It was probably the hardest decision for me to go, but last year I realised that I am not in a phase of my career when I would sit on the bench. I want to be playing, I want to have a chance to compete for my position in the team and I want to be useful for the team and do the usual stuff on the pitch week in, week out. I hope I will have that possibility to compete for my place here at Arsenal and I hope that I can bring something a little extra to the team that can help.
You’re obviously hugely experienced in the Premier League. You know the Premier League very well and you know London very well. Do you think that will be a big advantage for you?
Well I believe that the Premier League is the best league in the world and having played in the Premier League for such a long time, it is to my advantage and I know what to expect. This year I will be at a different club but I think it can be a big advantage for me that I’m settled, I know what to expect in almost every ground in England with the style that is played. It is a great challenge to be playing against the best players in the world and I always wanted to play in the Premier League and be a part of this league. To have an opportunity to continue in a team that has the motivation to challenge for the title and challenge the best teams was a challenge for me and I have to say that once I spoke to Arsene Wenger about the ambitions and motivations this club has, my decision was clear because I wanted to be a part of it.
How influential was Arsene Wenger in your decision to join Arsenal?
I had a good chat with him and it was the first time after the club approached me that I could speak to him in private for such a long time. He made me believe that this was the right step and that this is the club with a lot of ambition. I have a lot of personal motivation and ambition and the club definitely matches it. It is an exciting time for me, it is a project where Arsenal fans and the club have been waiting for the Premier League title and this is a chance for me to bring my experience and my little extra to the team and we can possibly achieve that.
Have you spoken to Tomas Rosicky about the club much and if so, what has he told you about it?
Yes, we have spoken – obviously we had time together with the national team but at the time I did not know what would happen. But he seems happy always and he loves playing for Arsenal. He was excited about the idea that this could happen. He told me a lot of good things and he was one of the reasons why I decided to give it a go and meet with Arsenal. Then the discussions went on and here we are today! I am really happy it happened that way.
You have played against Arsenal many times over the course of your career. What are your biggest memories from playing at Highbury and Emirates Stadium?
The first time I played at Highbury I was actually surprised about the size of the stadium because I thought it was a bit bigger! When you were on the pitch it seemed quite close and narrow. The first time I played, we conceded a goal when Thierry Henry shot a quick free-kick and we were caught by surprise. But in the end we got an important 2-2 draw which would later allow us to win the title, so that was my first memory. Then the club moved to Emirates Stadium and it is always nice to play there because of the beautiful pitches there every single year. You as a visitor know it is going to be a tough task to play against technical Arsenal sides and it was always a big test for us but we seemed to have success in recent years. Hopefully that will change now!
You have a chance to prove that because your first competitive game could be against Chelsea…
I think the script couldn’t have been written in a better way for the fans because this will be one of the days [that is] very exciting and very strange at the same time. I have to say, having been with Chelsea for 11 years and having so much success and great memories, I guess it will be a very strange feeling to be on the other side. Once you’re on the pitch, you play for your team and you want to win. During the year you can play against friends, you can play against big friends and close friends but once you are on the pitch, this friendship goes away and you just focus on winning the game.
Special thanks to Arsenal Media for allowing us to publish this historic material.