Arsene Wenger has hailed Petr Cech as the perfect goalkeeper as the Arsenal number one closes in on the Premier League clean sheet record.
The 33-year-old will equal David James’ total of 169 clean sheets if he can keep out north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday, with the record set to be broken in the coming weeks.
Other than the opening weekend of the league season in which he conceded two soft West Ham goals, Cech has enjoyed a sound start to his Arsenal career having moved across London from Chelsea during the summer.
The majority of Cech’s clean sheets to date of course came during his spell at Chelsea where he won the league title on four occasions.
It was well-documented that Blues boss and Wenger’s long-term adversary Jose Mourinho was not keen on selling the Czech Republic international to Arsenal – but the Gunners got their man and he has impressed since arriving at the Emirates Stadium.
“He has given first of all his experience,” Wenger said of his first-choice goalkeeper.
“He gives leadership because he is a leader on the pitch, he talks, he is brilliant intellectually, his analysis capacity is very strong, he is highly focused. It’s difficult to find a problem with him because he is the perfect goalkeeper.”
Cech has backed Arsenal to still make the latter stages of the Champions League despite a 5-1 thrashing at Bayern Munich on Wednesday which leaves them bottom of Group F and with qualification out of their hands.
He was rested for the opening two group matches, both of which ended in defeat, with Wenger criticised for dropping his only summer signing in such important matches.
The Frenchman was the only manager across Europe’s top five leagues not to sign an outfield player in the summer transfer window but remains delighted with improving his goalkeeping department.
“Cech had an agreement with his chairman that he could go for a certain price anywhere,” he said.
“We are not anywhere, but we are somewhere, and we managed to get him here and we are happy with it.
“I met Petr Cech and he told me he can be available for that money and I said for that money, I do it, so you do your job (and tell Chelsea). So I had not to fight with Chelsea, honestly.”
Having first moved to Chelsea 11 years ago from Rennes, Cech has become one of the most enduring Premier League goalkeepers in history.
To date he has played 228 less games in the division than James, but could equal his clean-sheet tally on Sunday.
“I believe that there is no coincidence,” Wenger replied when asked about Cech homing in on the total.
“It is just class. As well, not only class, but dedication and consistency of quality. Knowing him well now after a few months, I’m not surprised by this kind of achievement because he is absolutely dedicated to his job.
“He analyses absolutely everything and is gifted as well. He is a super talent. He is certainly one of the greatest goalkeepers we have ever seen here in this country.”
Cech turned 33 back in May but Wenger believes there are plenty more clean sheets and appearances left for the ex-Sparta Prague man to pick up before donning his gloves for the last time.
“He plays in a position where age is less of a restriction than in any other job (on the pitch),” Wenger added.
“Until 37 or 38 I consider that a goalkeeper can be completely able to play at this level. Some go longer, but once you start to have a 4 (at the start your age) and dive right and left and be quick and sustain the training and intensity of the training sessions, it is still difficult.
“I think (former Manchester United goalkeeper) Edwin van der Sar was close to 40 and still was very good.”