17 June 2015

Arsenal AGREE £14m deal for Čech. Who's next?

Okay, so the title is a bit clickbait-ish. Nothing's official until it appears at the club's website, but the rumours are gathering strength. Most of the bookies have closed down betting on the move, with only skybet still taking bets, and that at 1/12. Rumours of a move to PSG seem to have been scotched, and so it seems that the want-way keeper could end up at Arsenal. We're likely see a surge in lurid headlines that feature words in all-capital letters like EXCLUSIVE and SHOCKING and so on (similar to my own, I must admit). Whether there's fire with all of that smoke remains to be seen.

Čech, at 33, probably still has four or five years of world-class level play in him. Some bring up the cautionary tale of Iker Casillas, a year older but in precipitous decline. Casillas's performance, however, has depended on athleticism and reaction-time, qualities that deteriorate with age. A better comparison might be made to Gianluigi Buffon, four years older than Čech but still mentioned in the "world's best keeper" conversations. Like Buffon, Čech depends more on positioning and anticipation than on quickness and reaction. As such, it stands to reason that Čech can and will continue to control his area much as he has for the better part of the last decade.

We finished 12 points behind Chelsea this past season—not bad considering their torrid start and our shambolic one. Čech is arguably still good enough to help us keep half of those points, either by playing or by motivating and mentoring Ospina and Szczęsny. The two of them would have to know that they'd no longer be measured against each other but against one of the best keepers in the Prem (and the world). No longer would they be able to say "I'm better than Mannone/Fabianski/Almunia" and assume that the position is theirs—an attitude far more true of Szczęsny than Ospina. Bring in Čech and both keepers know that it's time to get busy.

However, I'm not here for an in-depth analysis of what Čech would mean for our ambitions. After all, we're still slumming in scurrilous rumours. There will be time enough for that later. For now, let's indulge in some equally hypothetical but shamelessly satsifying schadenfreude. Should Čech find his way to the right side of London, we'll have tweaked the snobby, snooty nose of Mourinho in legendary fashion. Sure, his minions will throw Fabregas's name in our faces, but that's false equivalency. Around these parts, Fabregas forfeited his Gooner/Gunner status not when he joined Chelsea but when he forced his way out, confirming his status as a front-runner. Čech, as one of the only bastions of Chelsea's history, wants to compete. Mourinho doesn't want to see him come to Arsenal. Abramovich, apparently, wants to honor Čech's service and let him have a say in where he goes.

If we can't compete directly with Chelsea on the pitch, what with the massive financial advantages that Abramovich confers on the club, we can at least go for irony. If it's Abramovich who's willing to sell Čech for £14m, who are we to turn up our noses? It's been said that Čech admires Arsenal's philosophy and style of play. On its face, the signing wouldn't automatically elevate us to the status of Prem contenders—but it would send a stark message about the contrast between Arsenal and Chelsea: the former, a club that values performance and character; the latter, a club that rent-boys and flavors of the month.

Before we part ways, I have to apologise. I went with a click-bait title. Call it morbid curiosity—what role does the title of a post play in its popularity? Enquiring minds want to know...