14 June 2015

Should Arsenal sign Čech, if only to tweak Mourinho?

Let's be honest with ourselves, shall we? Ask yourself: how much of my interest in signing Petr Čech is strategic, and how much of it is borne out of pure spite? In other words, do we really need Čech for what he'd bring to the club, or are we only after him to wreak some kind of revenge on Mourinho? Don't get me wrong; each of those reasons is noble in its own right.
     "I make him better, Mourinho-dinck suffers?"
     "Humiliations galore."
     "That is a noble cause."
After all, our own Wojciech Szczęsny has failed to inspire much confidence, faltering to the point that the unproven but much-more stable David Ospina relegated him to the bench—much as Fabiański did a year ago—this time, though, Szczęsny couldn't or wouldn't reclaim his "rightful" place. Enter Čech...

Trust me, Petr; they treat you right at this club. Just...just don't ask me any questions...
Full disclosure: I do like Szczęsny, or at least the Platonic form of him that arises in my mind. He has it in him to be one of the world's best-keepers. Ironically, his ostensible knowledge of that possibility is precisely what prevents him from realizing that same possibility. In other words, if Szczęsny didn't already believe that he's capable of being one of the world's best keepers, he'd be one of the world's best keepers. Somewhere, Schrödinger's cat is smirking. Or isn't smirking.

For most of Szczęsny's time at Arsenal, he's been the unquestioned #1. Even as Ospina, Fabiański, Mannone, Lehmann, Almunia, and assorted others have come and gone, it has seemed ever since 2009 that Szczęsny would be Arsenal's keeper through the next decade or more. By and large, he's done just barely enough to tantalize us with the idea that he might just become good enough to wear that mantle. However, just as often, he reminds us of what it means to be a bone-head. How might he respond, how much might he improve, if a world-class keeper like Čech joined the squad?

Thibaut Courtois has attested to the effect that Čech's presence has had on his own performance, saying the following to L'Equipe:
It's tough when you have a goalkeeper at such a high level. It pushes you to never slacken off. I'm strong in my head and both of us are decisive.
How much did Čech's presence and mentoring inspire Courtois over the course of the season. That's hard to quantify. How much would his presence and mentoring inspire Szczęsny? Again, hard to quantify. Between his own performance and the motivation he'd provide to Szczęsny, would we see gain twelve points, the gap between us and Chelsea? (A corollary question about a drop-off in Courtois' performance comes to mind...). Only time would tell.

At some level, though, we have to ask ourselves whether we're curious about Čech for strategy versus symbolism. Let's be honest when we admit that Chelsea, and especially Chelsea under Mourinho, chafe our nether-regions. At some level, then, we might have to admit that signing Čech might matter more for the power-play than for the points. The man is a legend. If we were to sign him away, we could shout even louder, "you ain't got no history!" because we would have, ironically, transferred what little history the club does have. At another level, we could expose Mourinho for the rank rent-boy that he is as he oversees the transfer of one of Chelsea's few iconic players to his own most-hated rival. That his pimp Abramovich prefers to see Čech treated with a modicum of respect—respect he might only find at a club like Arsenal—would ice the cake all the more.

Setting such base ambitions aside, I'd love for Čech to come to the right side of London. The impact he could have on both Szczęsny and Ospina, not to mention Martínez and others is, again, immeasurable. To have a keeper of his class and quality mentoring, monitoring, and motivating our callow clique of keepers might mean far more than the transfer-fee or weekly wages he commands. Whaddaya say, Petr? Fancy a run-out at a club that might actually respect you rather than merely rent you?