Arsenal’s new manager Unai Emery has so far been quite clear with whom he wants between the sticks for his side, with veteran shot stopper Petr Cech being the eternal presence so far for Arsenal. Despite bringing in highly rated German goal keeper Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal are yet to start with him between the sticks – but maybe thats just the right thing to do for now.
So far into the season, Arsenal have played four, lost the opening two against Chelsea and Man City and won the following two against West Ham and Cardiff with Petr Cech featuring in all four of them so far. Arsenal, who had brought in Leno for a considerable fee of around £20 million, are yet to actually test their new recruit in the league, despite rapidly growing calls from Arsenal’s supporters to see their new player in action.
Arsenal under Emery have so far brought in a completely distinct approach to the goalkeeping role which Petr Cech was previously totally unaccustomed to, by playing the goalkeeper as the XIth outfield player in the team. Emery wants his team to play out from the back by prioritizing possession and utilizing his goalkeeper as the first point of initiating any play that his team makes.
Petr Cech seems completely unsuited to that and far less competent than Bernd Leno in being able to completely impose what Emery has in mind from his goalkeeper. Yet during our first two defeats to Chelsea and City, Petr Cech was quite the standout player with the set of outstanding saves really keeping the scoreline respectable during the two games. Despite almost making a blunder by passing the ball into his own net, Petr Cech was quite remarkable with his recovery from that and going on to deny Aguero, Sterling and Laporte in the game.
That’s exactly what a four-time Premier League winning keeper brings to the table. It’s not easy to recover from an error that big and go on to grow into the game and make the game his, but that’s what Petr Cech did. Playing in front of a defense that’s playing together for the very first time, under a new system that’s completely foreign to them and against the former champions. Imagine now bringing into the picture a player new to the league, team and country.
Moving on the next game, Petr Cech improved quite a lot after getting a much better sense of what’s expected and how to play according to the gaffer, by contributing to one of the biggest plays of the game which involved the entire defense and resulted in the second goal.
For a player whose name is engraved alongside the greatest players to have ever played the game, after a career spanning 15 years or more in the top flight by playing his game and knowing his role in one particular manner and then being expected to change everything completely in one pre-season and be absolutely perfect from day one, well that’s not human. Instead of looking at what he’s unable to bring to the table right now, we should be looking at what he does bring that the German simply cannot.
The veteran Champions League winning goalkeeper is a leader on the pitch – being the senior most in the squad he has what it takes to organize a new look defense that Arsenal have for now. The back-line, with Mustafi and Sokratis at the heart, is far from the settled one that most of their rivals have. Both are getting used to understanding what the other’s weaknesses and strengths are in understanding how they can compliment each other. They are yet to actually do and show that they can bring that ounce of stability that any goalkeeper needs in front of them, let alone a completely new one.
It’s a porous defense that Arsenal have right now and before introducing Leno, we really need to make sure that the people in front of him can actually provide him the stability and composure that he might need to gradually settle into the team and the league.
The main objective of bringing in someone as good as Leno in addition to someone like Petr Cech was surely to encourage a healthy level of competition between the two and that’s exactly what we should be encouraged about. By watching from the bench, Leno can learn how one of the greatest goalkeepers of his time at 36 years of age is growing and molding himself to play in a style that he’s never played before and doing that as fearlessly as him.
Playing in this league isn’t easy and to be the number one goalkeeper for Arsenal and carry that level of expectation on a daily basis is even more difficult than that, but that’s what Leno can learn just by watching and waiting for his time to come, which as we all know will. If not against Newcastle, then a couple of months down the line or possibly a bit more but we all know that Leno has been brought here to play.
He’s not here to sit on the bench the entire season and that’s exactly what Petr Cech knows too, which is why knowing that Leno is there waiting and awaiting his chance to pounce on every single mistake he makes, makes him exactly that much more motivated to prove his worth in this system every time he takes to the field.
And well, if that is not beneficial to the club, then what is? Is throwing in a novice swimmer into the deep ends and expecting them to figure everything out the way to teach someone how to swim and master the seas? It isn’t, which is why, like Leno, we should completely appreciate right now what Petr Cech is bringing to the table rather than picking out his flaws and discouraging one of the greatest goalkeepers the league has ever seen into thinking its not his cup of tea, because it is.