23 June 2015

Čech CONFIRMED as Arsenal ROCK Chelsea's title hopes

Petr Čech has been all but confirmed at Arsenal, with SkySports reporting that a £10.9m fee has been agreed, "sources say," which almost certainly refers to a reporter who interviewed this one guy who was talking to a taxi-driver whose brother's nephew once played for the Academy has this sister whose hairdresser's uncle was in a pub and overheard the words "Čech," "fee," and "agreed." On a more serious note, it looks to be a cash-only deal, meaning that we won't be parting with any players, homegrown or otherwise, to appease Mourinho. That's right. It appears that Arsène may have finally out-manoeuvred Mourinho, if only off the pitch. Whether that carries onto the pitch remains to be seen.

Is Čech the "world class" signing of the summer, carrying on the tradition established by Özil and continued by Alexis? At first blush, perhaps not. That £10.9m fee pales in comparison to the £44m paid for Özil and the £38m paid for Alexis. Even if we're talking about a keeper, a position that usually commands much-lower fees than those for attacking players, there's a bit of a fall-off, if only financially. In terms of class, however, one would be hard-pressed to find a better keeper. Casillas, sadly, is fading. Buffon might have just a year or two left. If you're going to suggest de Gea, Neuer, or Courtois, you might need to get your head checked.

Simply put, it's rare that a player of Čech's quality is made available, and for him to be sold to a cross-town rival is monumental. It would be difficult to find two clubs and two managers whose philosophies differ more fundamentally than Chelsea-Arsenal, Mourinho-Wenger. Heck, Čech has been a keeper at Chelsea longer than most fans have supported the club. For him to leave that club signifies a seismic shift—of sorts. While it's true that his (apparent) signing could add as many as 15 points to our season's haul, according to none other than John Terry, we still have a bit of business to see to.

In the short term, Čech brings a winner's attitude, control of his area, and mentorship (and a challenge) to Szczęsny. That should boost our ambitions, if not our performance. How much will it undermine Chelsea's? Too hard to quantify. If Terry is right in suggesting that Arsenal could add 15 points, it stands to reason that Chelsea could drop points. A half-dozen? If we picked up those 15, we'd finish with 90 points—more than enough to outpace Chelsea's 87. If Courtois relaxes even a little bit after Čech leaves, Chelsea would drop points, easing our path to the Prem title.

However.

If Čech does indeed join Arsenal, we have to be prepared for Chelsea to hit back—and hit back hard. Spurned in his attempt at snatching one of our homegrown players, Mourinho will want to find homegrown players from elsewhere. Apparently discontented with Diego Costa's contributions, he might go after Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, or Wayne Rooney, among others. Mourinho and Abramovich won't be cowed by FFP considerations. Count on Mourinho to demand the best that money can buy, especially after having been apparently overruled on Čech's transfer to Arsenal.

Therefore, it becomes all the more imperative that we find players willing to come to Arsenal. Fortunately, the signing of Čech should send a signal of intent to players and clubs. We're now just a signing or two away from winning the Prem and perhaps driving deep into the Champions League. Who wants to be that next player to join Arsenal, to launch a storied club in the world's toughest league towards glory? The current climate runs against financial malfeasance, and by that standard Arsenal stands head and shoulders above its rivals, be they Chelsea, Man City or Man U; or Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, or Bayern.

In other words, the signing of Čech should not and cannot signal the end of our dealings. If anything, it should pave a path towards a few more signings. Who, then, should it be?