Petr Cech is one of the world’s best goalkeepers. I recently did a top ten all time Premier League goalkeepers list and placed the Czech at number two, and although some may feel I let my Chelsea heart rule my head there, I still stand by that decision. Cech joined the west London club in the summer of 2004, displacing the in form fan favourite Carlo Cudicini with relative ease, and as far as his position as Chelsea’s number one is concerned – he has never looked back.
Cech has, however, as we are all aware, received a great deal of criticism since his return from the infamous 2006 head injury sustained by Reading’s Stephen Hunt, a player who is still greeted at Stamford Bridge by a chorus of boos. It is undeniable that Cech has suffered from the injury, although it is hard to see how the man couldn’t, bearing in mind the seriousness of the collision. Cech suffered a depressed skull fracture and it was said at the time that the injury could have been fatal, with manager José Mourinho stating ‘he is lucky to still be alive’. You would think that a man would be crazy to return just three months after such an incident; however that is exactly what Cech did.
Things though have not been the same since his return, and although the man is still a class act and a vital part of Chelsea’s challenge for silverware, he is no longer the best goalkeeper in the world. The Czech shot stopper is often criticised for the use of a head guard, football pundit Andy Gray for example is often quick to point out the effect it has had on his game. Although I have no doubt that the guard is key to Cech, both mentally and physically, it does not do him any favours as it looks like a sign of weakness to opposition for a man whose position requires none to be shown.
Cech has started this campaign in similar sketchy form. Whilst usually looking relatively solid, he sometimes finds himself looking particularly vulnerable, especially from aerial balls. In games against Aston Villa and Stoke this season his failure to claim crosses in which he has attempted to, resulting in Chelsea conceding a goal. Being a goalkeeper myself, admittedly not of Cech’s standards, I am often quick to jump to the defence of keepers, trying to rationalise with people what may have been going through their head when making an error. However even I was puzzled when Cech ventured to his penalty spot at the Britannia Stadium, allowing Amdy Faye to head over him. I sometimes think that Cech feels a need to come for aerial balls that he has no right in getting to, almost in trying to prove to people that this aspect of his game is still competent.
Another factor that can’t be helping Cech’s game involves the back-up goalkeepers at Stamford Bridge. Henrique Hilário and Ross Turnbull, whilst not bad goal keepers, are not going to displace the Czech international on a permanent basis. Competition for any player is healthy and many thrive on it. Cech has lacked really constant competition for the number one jersey since his first few seasons in which Carlo Cudicini was still fighting for his place. I feel that some fresh competition capable of displacing Cech will inspire the shot stopper to silence his critics and prove what many Chelsea fans already know; that he is still a quality keeper.
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