Petr Cech has made no “tangible” difference at Arsenal but does not represent £10million wasted, according to former Gunners striker Alan Smith.
Cech will have been unhappy to have let in Kevin De Bruyne’s effort in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at Manchester City on Sunday as the Gunners missed the chance to make certain of a Champions League spot for next season.
They will certainly expect to pick up the point they need against Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, but another failure to seriously challenge for the Premier League title has left Smith wondering what difference their only summer signing has made.
He said in his Daily Telegraph column: “It had practically become a cliché. Petr Cech, following his arrival from Chelsea, will be worth another 10 to 15 points to Arsenal.
“Such is his quality, so went the common consensus, the goalkeeper will keep out some efforts that the likes of Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina previously could not. The transfer was seen as a key turning point.
“So has that theory panned out? Has Cech actually brought progression in a quantifiable way? Well, I think we all know the answer to that one. With one game left, Arsenal have 68 points on the board, four less than this time last year.
“If Cech has indeed been responsible for earning, say, 10 extra points, Arsene Wenger’s side, without the Czech international, would have been floundering in seventh position.
“And in reality, that probably wouldn’t have happened, just as it hasn’t for the past couple of decades.
“As for the total number of goals conceded, there isn’t much to choose between this campaign and the last. Going into Sunday’s home game with Aston Villa, the Gunners have let in only two less.
“So are they no better off after seemingly working wonders by prising Cech away from their London rivals? The stats would tell you no, when common sense insists that the 33 year-old represents a definite hike in standards at the Emirates.
“Mind you, it didn’t particularly feel that way yesterday at Manchester City when Arsenal’s keeper failed to keep out Kevin de Bruyne’s shot, getting beaten once again down to his right, just as he was by Yannick Bolasie a few weeks ago. Reacting too late, Cech’s dive was slightly sluggish as the ball skidded past.
“Not only that, De Bruyne’s accurate drive to put City 2-1 up was the 10th time Cech has been beaten from outside the box, the most of any keeper in the Premier League. It started with Mauro Zarate’s effort in the opening day defeat to West Ham and the theme has continued in the months since.
“This feels like a weak point in the player’s armoury, one that wasn’t detected over 11 successful years at Stamford Bridge.
“Yet that is not to say that Arsenal wasted £10m last summer. This tried and trusted winner, a very positive influence in the dressing room, has certainly improved the squad. A calm, authoritative presence between the sticks, he adds a bit of class to Arsenal’s defending.
“Unfortunately for the team, that hasn’t resulted in anything tangible. With or without Cech, Arsenal end up in a very familiar position.”