What makes a title winning side? What is the key ingredient that pushes teams over the line; allows them to go that extra mile in the pursuit of glory? The goal scorers? Of course. No title is won without someone in the team to put the ball in the back of the net. It’s also hard to imagine a team achieving much without a dynamic midfield to put the ball on a plate for the strikers. Or indeed a rock solid defence to halt the opposition and keep it tight at the back.
Then there’s the goalkeeper. The solitary figure between the sticks who wears the gloves and leaps about for 90 plus minutes, launching himself at the ball in attempt to keep it out of his net. They’re all mad, apparently. But a great goalkeeper is what title winning sides are based on. They provide the stability for the rest of the team to go and express themselves. An assured head in goal can make the world of difference to the other ten in front of him.
They can save a team at least ten points per season, if not more. Even if the outfield players aren’t firing and a game looks to be meandering away, there is always the chance you’ll nick a scrappy 1-0 win thanks to the efforts of the keeper. Those are the performances and results that win championships.
For Arsenal this season, Petr Cech could well be their saviour.
Having already broken the Premier League clean sheets record this campaign, Cech could go on to collect another accolade come May; his fifth title winning medal. His performance at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City this weekend is the perfect example of how he can and has dragged Arsenal over the line this season. The game may have only 0-0 but it could be seen as a point gained by Arsene Wenger’s side as they jump back to the top of table above Leicester City on goal difference.
For far too long Arsenal have promised so much yet disappointed when it matters most. They have not won the league since 2004 and in that barren spell they have had keepers like Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina; all of whom have not been good enough. Finally they have a goalie who knows what it’s like to win championships having amassed countless honours with Chelsea, including four Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2012.
It also shows the influence he had on Thibaut Courtois during his final season in West London that he was able to play second fiddle to the young Belgian yet remain humble and help his young counterpart emerge as the first choice stopper at Stamford Bridge.
The determination of Cech is clearly evident after seeing his career come dangerously close to ending after his horror injury at Reading in 2006 which left him with a fractured skull after a collision with Stephen Hunt. The fact that he still wears his now trademark protective headgear highlights just how serious the injury was all those years ago. I’m sure at the time he thought he might never play again, let alone go on to see his career flourish in the way that it has.
It’s important to remember that there are some goals that no goalkeeper can stop, and if history tells us anything it’s that Arsenal will always give the opposition a chance to score; but if Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott aren’t firing and the creativity of Mesut Ozil is missing (as was the case at the Britannia), then you can bet your house that it’s goalkeepers like Petr Cech who will win you points and supply the foundation for a title winning side.