08 June 2015

Czech Čech to sign cheque to check Chelsea's cheek?

Okay, so the yellow journalism has its limits. Still, there are open and legitimate questions round Petr Čech's future at Chelsea after a season spent on the bench behind Thibaut Courtois after making 470 appearances for Chelsea over a decade of service, Čech saw his appearances cut down to just 15 in 2014-15. It's no wonder that the man who nearly lost his life on the pitch might feel like he's no longer respected or valued by a club that seems voraciously on the prowl for its next bit of chum. With his Chelsea career all but over, is there a chance we'll see him switch to Arsenal in order to stay in the Prem and in London as well?

It's not as far-fetched as it may seem at first. Yes, it seems unlikely and improbably that Mourinho would sell to a top rival. Whether we count as such after finishing 12 points behind Chelsea is an open question. Then again, Mourinho reportedly blocked Demba Ba's move to Arsenal after we brought in Özil, reckoning that we'd threaten his precious perch as flat-track bully with the shiniest toys. At the other end, though, he did sell Juan Mata, a two-time Player of the Year, to Manchester United in January 2014. Yes, at the time, they were limping along and would slouch towards a seventh place finish, but it does suggest that Mourinho does not object to business with rivals.

When it comes to Mourinho, we do have to keep in mind his apparent habit of demeaning and demoting key players in order to demonstrate his power. At Chelsea, it's been Čech, Schürrle, and Mata. At Real Madrid, it was Casillas and Pepe. Anyone whom Mourinho deems a threat to his own fiefdom will be flayed. So it is with Čech. The man is an institution at a club short on history. His decade of service should earn him a bit more respect that he was offered. Even his replacement, Courtois, has spoken warmly of the Czech's role in mentoring and motivating him, saying, "it's tough when you a goalkeeper at such a high level [on the bench]. It pushes you to never slacken off."

Imagine Szczęsny, immensely talented but just as immature, challenged by the likes of Čech behind him. Heck, when it was his own countryman Fabiański, whom he had bested for club and country, challenging him, Szczęsny came back from his demotion in the form of his life. Nothing against Viviano or Ospina, but neither of them rise to Čech's level. Should we sign the man, he'd terrify Szczęsny into becoming the keeper he's only ever flirted with becoming—or replace him. If a 37-year old Gianluigi Buffon can help Juventus to a scudetto and a closer-than-it-looks 3-1 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final, then surely, a 33-year old Čech has a few years left in him as well.

As far as Čech himself, he seems to have expressed a preference for staying in London (and I doubt that he's referring to Fulham, Brentford, or Tottenham). Speaking on Monday, he had this to say:
Next week, we will have a meeting with Chelsea when the situation is clearer and all the cards are on the table. If I move, it brings difficulties. I must change everything, looking for housing, a school for my children, and so on.
That doesn't quite rise to the level of saying, "I insist on staying in London", but there's enough in it to make tongues wag. Would Mourinho win, insisting that Čech only be sold abroad, or would Abramovich overrule him, granting Čech his preference out of deference for his service to the club? Tough call.

From our end, how much is a keeper like Čech worth? How many points would he preserve through his skill, experience, command, and intimidation? Szczęsny has talent, as does Ospina, but neither of them can claim to command his area with consistency or cause doubt to creep into attackers' minds. Simply by being on the pitch, Čech should inspire greater confidence and calm among the defenders in front of him. Watch him during a match (you'd have to go back to 2013-14 and beyond...). He doesn't just stand between the sticks, waiting. He's constantly directing, commanding, berating. Szczęsny, for all of his potential doesn't do that. When he does, he doesn't do it with much authority. He's a prat.

Bring in a keeper like Čech, and Szczęsny has to set aside the pratfalls and double-down or get dumped. Either way, I'd have to think that such as signing would be worth twelve points over the course of a season. Is that worth the £15m or so it might take to prise him away?

What do you think? Should we be after Čech, or is this a pipe-dream? Even if it's possible, would our money be better-spent elsewhere? Share your thoughts below the fold...