It’s been a while since I last wrote. Unfortunately, it’ll be the case for the entire month of July, as I’ve decided to gain a bit of working experience and thus took up work as an intern for a firm providing legal services. Ah well, I guess I had to do it at some point. Not that I regret the decision, far from it, the whole experience just drains me and leaves little desire or energy for anything else.
However, back to Arsenal matters and the euphoria from us signing Petr Cech still hasn’t died down. For a couple of days (Monday and Tuesday) my timeline was unreadable: it was a big chunk of Cech happiness. A nice change from the usual scepticism about our acquisitions in the summer transfer window.
Comparisons are now made how the last two times Arsenal signed a world-class goalkeeper (David Seaman in 1990 and Jens Lehmann in 2003 respectively) we went on to win the league title next season, losing just one game in 91-92 and none in 03-04. Make no mistake: Cech is world-class. He averaged 15 clean sheets in a season for the last 11 seasons, while having a save percentage of 78% in his last three campaigns. He has also won everything there was to win at Club level with Chelsea and set the new record for most clean sheets in the BPL.
However, I’ve come to treat stats with caution. For example, David Ospina’s save percentage over his last two seasons is 83-84% (that includes his season with Nice, Arsenal and two international tournaments), yet few are convinced he is the long-term answer. As we can see, even Arsene is unconvinced, so much so he went out and bought Cech. It probably signals the end to Ospina’s career, unless the Colombian suddenly changes his mind and decides he wants to play back-up to Cech. Seems unlikely to me, so farewell David Ospina. You can read my tribute to him here.
So while I still consider Cech world-class based not only on his stats but also his performances for Chelsea, I’ll do the unthinkable and judge him on his performances for us. Also on his attitude, which I quite liked from the bits I’ve seen, like this classy interview. Watch it. Finally, I think Cech’s experience will be hugely beneficial to our back four. It is much easier playing behind a commanding and calm goalkeeper.
What makes this signing even more pleasing, is that Arsene got one over Mourinho, who explicitly said Cech left against his wishes. Isn’t that delicious. Mourinho refused to sanction the deal, he told he’d rather Cech rot on the bench than join rivals from PL. So Cech went over Maureen’s head and Abramovich sanctioned the move, something that Cech confirmed in his farewell letter. Now Mourinho has gone bonkers publicly, saying he believes Chelsea made a mistake in letting Cech come to Arsenal, made it abundantly clear again he was against it & said he hopes such a thing never happens in the future.
Get this: he basically went on record and accused Abramovich of making a decision he disagreed with. The Russian oligarch was soft-hearted enough to grant Cech his wish, however I doubt he’ll be as lenient towards his employees when they so publicly go against him. It’ll be interesting to see how this one develops. Abramovich didn’t hesitate to fire Mourinho once, I’m sure he won’t hesitate to do it again.
However, I’m writing this article not so much as to laud Cech as a player and a person. I’m not even writing this to glee about Mourinho’s lividness and his obvious strained relationship with Mr. Abramovich, though whatever makes Maureen angry makes me happy. Rather, I detect signs of ruthlessness from Arsene Wenger. Ones that started to become evident last summer, after Wenger signed Debuchy and Chambers and shipped Jenkinson out on loan. Arsene recognised Jenko wasn’t good enough for the here and now, so he went and bought two players. While Chambers’ stock will only rise with the years, Debuchy’s won’t. A player who we bought for 12 million pounds will have little to no re-sell value when his contract expires.
Sounds familiar? It should, because it’s exactly what Arsene did with Cech. Cech is 33, he’s a proven, world-class goalkeeper, but we bought him for roughly 10 million and by the time his current deal runs out (it is rumoured to run till 2019), he’ll be 37. Definitely in the twilight of his career, with hardly any re-sell value. I believe this thought was originally expressed by @Arseblog. In short, Arsene just spent 10 million he’ll never get back. And he’s done it for the good of the team, for it’s short-term future, for it to stand a real chance to challenge next season, not in 3-4 seasons.
Having done that, Arsene also ended a career of one of our current goalkeepers. most likely Ospina. After only a period of adaptation, very good season for Ospina too, one in which his mistakes were few and far between, Arsene is selling David. After just one season. An international goalkeeper 26 years of age.
He also very obviously leaves Szczesny on the bench and Martinez still waiting in the wings. He basically says: “I’ve brought in a class act and you lads watch and learn from him. We’ll see how it goes”. He has three goalkeepers: 26-year-old, 25-year-old and 23-year-old. Nonetheless he buys a 4th one and is intent on making him first-choice. This is what I call ruthless.
It’s not that Arsene hasn’t shown his ruthlessness in the period of financial abstinence. He benched Vermaelen and Szczesny in 2013 after the Tottenham debacle. These aren’t the only examples, just the most recent ones.
It doesn’t mean Arsene doesn’t trust his players, on the contrary: he gives them countless chances. It was also the case with Chezza and Verminator. It’s not that he doesn’t prefer his players to outside solutions. Every transfer window he states that he does, his words are usually backed by his actions, when he refuses to buy and instead gives players like Ramsey a chance. This trust often pays off. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes Arsene reaches his inner limit.
He looks to have reached this one in January, after Szczesny’s weak display against Southampton. He benched the Pole, played Ospina in all the remaining league games and now bought Cech. Something tells me Arsene would have sold Woj had Ospina expressed his desire to stay.
I have to say I like the ruthless Arsene Wenger. One which will tolerate mediocrity and/or shortcomings of his players for only so long. One which can go and splash the cash on a player with no re-sell value in the future. One that addresses not only our long-term problems, but also our burning needs.
This deal is good from a footballing point of view, but it also sends out a message. That we can both nick players from our direct rivals and won’t give our current crop a carte blanche to do whatever they please and still remain on the books.
Roll on the new season