Arsenal yesterday announced the signing of Petr Cech from Premier League rivals Chelsea for a fee believed to be in the region of £10 million.
This is a significant transfer for the Gunners for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Wenger has secured the services of a third genuinely world class player in as many years and finally solved a position which has been a problem since Jens Lehmann left the club the first time. Cech has won everything in the game at club level and therefore it is not only his great talent which he will bring to the team, but also his immense experience and winning mentality. His presence in the dressing room will therefore be priceless next season, especially if Arsenal can maintain a title challenge right into the last few weeks of the season.
Having a goalkeeper of such undoubted talent will also provide a calming influence on the defence ensuring that they can concentrate on defending rather than worrying about what their goalkeeper may or may not do. This coupled with the excellent screening work done by Francis Coquelin, should ensure that Arsenal fans will see a better defensive unit next season, one which will concede fewer goals as a result.
Before the previous season ended, it was widely acknowledged that the Gunners needed to strengthen the spine of the team and the arrival of Cech appears to be the first piece of the puzzle. His signing is also a statement of intent; Arsenal are now undoubtedly shopping at world class level, want to attract the game’s best players to the club and are aiming to win the biggest trophies. Upon arriving at the club Cech confirmed as much, stating how Arsene Wenger’s vision for the future had helped seal the deal.
Of course another significant aspect of this transfer is the fact Cech was signed from a direct rival. The last time Wenger signed such a high profile player from a rival (Sol Campbell from Tottenham) the Gunners sealed the double the next season. It indicates a return to the ruthless Wenger of old; the man who would move players on at the right time and replace them with better. When Campbell arrived, Arsenal already had two quality centre backs in Tony Adams and Martin Keown, but Wenger saw the opportunity to improve his squad and went for it. In the case of Cech, there is a somewhat bittersweet feeling in that his arrival almost certainly spells the end for the popular David Ospina. The Colombian is a very talented goalkeeper in his own right who performed very well last season, but cannot be labelled as a world class goalkeeper. Therefore when the opportunity to sign Cech arose, Wenger made the ruthless decision to pursue the transfer and ultimately improve his team. It is almost as though the manager has been refreshed by back to back FA Cup wins as in previous seasons, he would have remained loyal to his players and passed up the opportunity, regretting it later as the likes of Almunia, Denilson, Bendtner and Senderos ultimately proved they were not good enough to take the club forward.
The fact Jose Mourinho did not want Cech to leave at all, let alone to a direct rival, must also bring a smile to the faces of all those associated with the Gunners. His captain John Terry, underlined Mourinho’s concerns when he proclaimed Cech would be worth 13 more points to Arsenal and Chelsea must now see Wenger’s side as their closest rivals for the title next season. Mourinho has essentially been undermined by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, a situation which must really hurt the Portuguese manager whose ego has taken a battering with this move and can only play into the hands of their rivals.
Having solved the goalkeeping position, Wenger must now sign another defensive midfielder to help take the pressure off Coquelin and replace him should the Frenchman suffer injury or receive a suspension. The manager should also sign a striker as when Giroud is not performing at his best, the side can appear blunt up front. If Arsenal are successful in signing top quality players for these positions there can be no doubt that they will be genuine title contenders next season.