Coming to the Premier League as a relative unknown in 2004, Petr Cech is set to depart it as one of the most decorated goalkeepers in its history. The perception of Cech as one of the greatest ‘keepers in world football has waned since his move to Arsenal, but it wasn’t so long ago that Cech was every striker’s worst nightmare.
As Manchester City continue their relentless assault on just about every record ever set in the history of the Premier League, one record continues to stand resolute and may never be broken. That is, of course, Chelsea’s remarkable concession of just 15 goals in an entire Premier League season, of which Petr Cech was an integral part.
Cech set a then Premier League record of 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal and kept a staggering 24 clean sheets as Chelsea romped to their first league title in over 50 years.
Chelsea retained their Premier League title the following season, conceding just 22 times in the process with Cech again in imperious form.
The Blues conceded just 37 goals across two title winning seasons with Cech as their number one.
To put into perspective how impressive that statistic is; Manchester City conceded 37 goals in a single season when they won the Premier League in 2014.
Despite a bad head injury, Cech’s star continued to rise the following season and in April 2007 he won PFA Player of the Month, the only goalkeeper to do so since his arrival in England.
Cech’s early years were undoubtedly some of the most impressive in the history of the Premier League, but he experienced a dip in form far sooner than expected.
Injuries started to mount for the Czech international in 2007 and with them came claims that Cech was already in decline, claims that were aided by a series of high-profile errors. Howlers against Arsenal and Aston Villa cost Chelsea points as they narrowly missed out on a third Premier League title, while a mistake in extra-time of the League Cup final against Tottenham saw Spurs emerge victorious in the first League Cup final at the new Wembley.
Doubts about Cech’s ability were quickly put to bed, however, and he underlined his importance to Chelsea with a series of stellar performances that resulted in the club taking home silverware.
At 0-0 in the 2010 FA Cup final, Portsmouth were handed the chance to take an unlikely lead when Chris Foy awarded Pompey a penalty. Cech saved Kevin Prince Boateng’s spot-kick and the Blues recorded their first ever league and cup double courtesy of Didier Drogba free kick.
Two seasons later and Cech’s cup final heroics were again to the fore when he pulled off one of the great cup final saves to somehow deny Andy Carroll and Liverpool, helping Chelsea to their third FA Cup in four seasons.
The same season saw Chelsea reach their holy grail when they won the Champions League for the first time and Cech again played an integral part. In the final, Cech famously denied Arjen Robben from the spot in extra-time, before saving two penalties in the shootout.
Cech’s part in Chelsea’s European triumph is somewhat underplayed because of Didier Drogba’s heroics, with the Ivorian taking most of the plaudits for dragging Chelsea to glory.
But without Cech, it’s hard to see how the Blues could have won on that famous night in Munich.
When Cech swapped the blue of Chelsea for the red of Arsenal he came under scrutiny because of a comment made by John Terry when he claimed that Cech was worth 15 points a season. While it is impossible to calculate how many points a goalkeeper actually earns his team, it is fair to say that Cech has not won Arsenal 45 points in his three full seasons since joining the Gunners.
In his first season with the North Londoners, Arsenal actually finished four points worse off than the previous season, but still managed a second-placed finish for the first time since 2005 by virtue of Tottenham being Tottenham.
Whether Cech had a tangible influence in his first season at Arsenal or not is up for debate. The following two seasons, however, are a lot more clear cut. In 2017/18, Cech made six mistakes leading to goals, the most of any goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues.
Age has not been kind to Cech and he has been committing blunders with an increasing regularity since making the switch to Arsenal. Whether that is because of a declining ability, or because he has been playing behind an abysmal back four is debatable, but it seems like the right time for Cech to go.
Barring an unlikely Arsenal trophy this season, he leaves the game with four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, a Champions League and Europa League crown, along with three league cups. An impressive trophy haul made all the more notable by the fact that Cech also holds the record for most clean sheets and most saves in Premier League history with 202 and 1,005 respectively.
Cech also has four Premier League golden gloves and went over 1,000 minutes without conceding to Lionel Messi before eventually succumbing to the best player in the world in 2016. Throw in the fact that Cech seems like a genuinely nice guy and you have one of the most likeable players in modern football. He departs with his reputation, and records, intact and it will be a long time before someone breaks them.