Petr Cech is one of the finest goalkeepers the Premier League has ever seen, but has he had a great season for Arsenal?
Hand on heart. No, I don’t think he has.
So I wasn’t surprised to read newspaper reports that suggest his place might be under threat from Gunners number two, David Ospina.
On the face of it, there’s been no obvious issue with the Czech legend.
His kicking has been a touch erratic, but you couldn’t say Cech has been poor. Unlike situations at Liverpool and Man City he’s certainly not a liability, and in spite of a bad lapse in concentration for Chelsea’s third goal last weekend it’s also unfair to label him error-strewn. By and large, the 34-year-old’s performed perfectly OK.
The problem is Arsenal didn’t recruit the ex-Chelsea star to be fair-to-middling.
They identified him as a world-class player that would turn possible defeats into draws; he was earmarked as somebody that little bit special who would transform one point into three. He was supposed to produce match-defining saves as a matter of course that made the difference. And unfortunately that hasn’t really transpired.
Those of us who believed he was capable of earning the Gunners an extra 10-15 points a season (and there were many) have been left with egg on our faces.
Taking the current campaign in isolation, from his 24 appearances so far I’ve only made Petr Cech Arsenal’s man of the match once, at home to Middlesbrough when he was excellent.
It’s not that he hasn’t been busy. Wenger’s men have had to deal with 22 more shots on target than their closest top six rival, and a whopping 32 more than leaders Chelsea.
Called into action by 97 efforts on target in total, I’d have expected far more bottles of bubbly to be stashed in the four-time title winners’ fridge.
He may legitimately point towards the seven penalty concessions, and suggest they cloud his figures - but spot kicks also represent an opportunity for keepers to become a hero, and all seven have sailed past him.
He just isn’t saving the shots he isn’t supposed to save, and as odd as that sounds, that’s the issue. Fans have been left feeling underwhelmed.
If Ospina does get a chance to claim number one status in the coming weeks, would it weaken Arsenal? I’m not so sure it would. He was sensational against PSG, and impressive throughout the CL group stage.
The Colombian lacks Cech’s aura and physical presence, but he is agile and a far better goalie than many give him credit for. Other than one poor performance at home to Olympiakos last season, he’s been terrific.
Right now there is a perception that too many of Arsenal’s regulars are too comfortable.
Playing for a boss that gives them every chance to find form, some believe certain individuals will always be selected no matter what.
I’m not sold on that theory, but with their season at a critical juncture, now might be the right time to shake things up and remind the squad nobody’s place is guaranteed.
Based on their respective form this season Cech definitely has a fight on his hands to stay in the side ahead of Ospina – and that’s how it should be.