With the signing of a world-class goalkeeper in the form of Petr Cech, Arsenal are ready to compete for the Premier League crown again. At least that’s been the assertion of many since the long-awaited deal was confirmed this week.
What such a theory suggests is that the Gunners’ outfield is the match of any title rival and that it has been their goalkeepers holding them back ever since the departure of Jens Lehmann. The likes of Manuel Almunia and Wojciech Szczesny were given a fair crack at cementing the number one jersey in recent years, though the same could perhaps not be said of the latest incumbent of a spot between the Emirates sticks in David Ospina.
WhoScored.com look into whether Petr Cech is a significant upgrade that will now make Wenger’s men legitimate title contenders once more.
There is little doubt that Arsenal have strengthened their ranks with the capture of the experienced Czech international, but it’s perhaps a little harsh on Ospina to be cast aside as a failure.
The Colombian secured the third highest rating of any goalkeeper in the Premier League last season from WhoScored (7.06), with a save success rate of 81% ranking first of all keepers to make five or more appearances. The fact that second to the South American was Petr Cech (80%) shows that there was very little between the two last season.
That’s not to say Ospina wasn’t without certain shortcomings, however, with his relatively short stature for a number one and at times erratic decision making from crosses proving problematic on more than one occasion.
However, as far as shot-stopping is concerned, few in Europe can match the 26-year old. He showcased as much on international duty as Colombia eventually crashed out at the quarter-final stage of the Copa America to Argentina on penalties. They made it that far due to Ospina’s heroics, with a string of superb saves (seven in total) enabling Jose Pekerman’s side to keep a clean sheet in normal time for a WhoScored rating of 8.13.
Regardless of what could be considered as a decent first season in England, however, it looks as though Ospina’s stay will be extremely brief. It’s he, and not Szczesny, who seems set to depart the club this summer, despite the Pole’s dismal league performances in 2014-15.
The Szczesny began the campaign as first choice, but a woeful display against Southampton on New Year’s Day eventually cost him his place. Most would agree he was lucky to hold onto the number one spot for that long. A WhoScored rating of 6.46 was the fourth lowest of all keepers in the top-flight, coming off the back of a season when the 25-year old had actually been showing encouraging signs of progress. Indeed, a tally of 16 clean sheets in 2013/14 was the joint most with – you guessed it – Petr Cech.
Nevertheless, there has remained a consistent feeling of unease with regards to the goalkeeper spot at Arsenal, with neither Szczesny nor – to a lesser extent – Ospina able to rid of the lingering doubt as to their true capabilities for a side looking to challenge for top spot.
In turn, the opportunity to sign Cech was a no brainer as far as Wenger was concerned. Not only did the 33-year old help Chelsea to four Premier League titles, along with a further nine domestic trophies, but he was imperative to the Blues’ Champions League glory in 2011-12. With a rating of 7.55 he was the top performing keeper in that year’s competition by a considerable distance.
He is a winner that commands the sort of respect that the likes of Szczesny and Ospina simply haven’t earned yet. Indeed, much of Arsenal defensive problems in recent seasons appear to have been borne out of a lack of authority at the back, of which Cech can boast an abundance.
Over the last six seasons only Joe Hart has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League (76), while in the same timeframe Cech has kept an impressive 18 in 47 Champions League appearances.
Meanwhile, there should be very little concern that Cech’s career may be winding down despite losing his place to Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge last season. In 16 appearances in all competitions in 2014-15 the 33-year was on the losing side just once – an ill-fated cup defeat to Bradford – keeping seven clean sheets and conceding just twice in seven league outings. Doubts as to whether he can still perform at the very highest level are instantly quashed by the fact that Cech has the strongest save success rate (78%) over the last three Premier League seasons.
Wenger’s decision to displace Ospina after such a short space of time may seem harsh, but it’s a ruthlessness that may well be necessary if Arsenal are to fight on all fronts once again. The Gunners still have their problem areas, but with the signing of Cech they have undoubtedly fixed one of the longest standing issues at the club.
It will take more than just a new number one to topple Chelsea’s dominance from the campaign gone by, but Arsenal have arguably made the most significant stride to doing so by poaching a Stamford Bridge legend.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download iOS and Android app.