Signing Petr Cech Is A Welcome Show Of Ruthlessness From Arsene Wenger


It’s difficult not to have some sympathy for David Ospina right now, having just pulled off one of the most difficult feats in world football.

On Friday, he was one of few Colombians to come out of his side’s quarter-final with credit, as he brilliantly denied Leo Messi a goal from within six yards. On Monday, it was confirmed that he will be surplus to requirements at the Emirates next season, as Arsenal completed the signing of Petr Cech.

That’s harsh.

That’s also the necessary ruthlessness of the game at the top level - and a ruthlessness that Arsene Wenger has finally, and creditably, rediscovered.

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This time, there was no concern from the Arsenal manager about creating the right long-term conditions for one of his players to develop, or giving someone a chance to see if they might evolve to the elevated level required. Wenger instead went and just signed the best player available for a position, immediately improving the overall level of his squad.

It may well end up the move of the summer.

The key here, however, is not just about concrete improvement in terms of innate quality. It’s also about the psychological effect.

It is as if Wenger has finally realised that, if he wants to win a title in the near future, he needs to match Chelsea in the mind as much as on the pitch. For the importance of this, you only have to consider Jose Mourinho’s own transfers, and how he has dealt with players like his goalkeepers. Cech himself endured similar ruthlessness at Stamford Bridge.

So, however, has his replacement.

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READ: James McNicholas on unlucky 'one season wonder' David Ospina

The return of Thibaut Courtois from his loan at Atletico Madrid was one of several moves in a forensic two-year overhaul of the Chelsea squad, but the reasons that certain players were moved on and others were kept were not just about ability.

Those around Cobham say that Mourinho would initially seek to mentally test new players or those he didn’t know all the time. He would drop pointed critical comments in the media, or suddenly drop the player from the team. You only have to consider the occasions when Courtois himself wasn’t in the line-up, or how Mourinho refused to outright state who his number-one was.

This is all a clear mental strategy. It is to see if players have the resilience and resolve required to be a regular winner. Mourinho would examine their responses. If they can handle it, they are kept. If they can’t, they are sold.

By doing this, Mourinho would condition a certain standard in the squad, and gradually assemble a group of granite-hard winners.

This is the source reason for so many transfers at Stamford Bridge over the last two years.

This, also, is what Arsenal are up against.

Chelsea Training Session : News Photo

It seemed to be something that Mourinho had over all of his main managerial rivals. He had that Alex Ferguson hardness.

In contrast to that kind of ruthlessness, Wenger has seemed rather soft with his squad over the past decade. He gave too many chances to too many players who didn’t warrant them, and didn’t act quickly enough when it was clear there was a deficiency.

It conditioned a callowness in his team, as could be seen in so many poor results against Chelsea and Manchester United. It was rare that players who under-performed in those matches would be discarded - in the way that long-time rival Ferguson so often knew exactly when to do - and the wonder is whether the squad subconsciously knew that. These little differences have an effect.

Now, Cech should offer a big difference. His signing may signal that approach is coming to an end, and he already represents a brutally ruthless improvement in the team.

Arsenal have not just brought in a better goalkeeper, and that from their rivals. They’ve brought in a winner fashioned by those rivals.

Winning involves little sympathy.

This may finally see a harder Arsenal once again.

 

Read more from Miguel Delaney