Arsenal gets a new 'spine' in Petr Cech
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 03, 2015 08:26 PM
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is Arsenal's first choice in that position (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)
FRANK GRIFFITHS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Arsenal will start the new season as it has done for the past few years, with at least one marquee signing and fans calling for even more star players to come in.
With the arrival of goalkeeper Petr Cech, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has finally heeded calls to build from the back. The former Chelsea keeper may not be wearing the No. 1 jersey, but he's clearly Arsenal's first choice in that position.
Wenger recalled that Cech was on his radar even before the Czech international signed for Chelsea.
"He has a good combination between quality, agility, size — he looked like he was built for English football," Wenger said. "I think he is a very bright goalkeeper as well. He has an intimidating presence, that is for sure. He makes the goals look small. That's the kind of charisma he has."
Wenger hasn't given any indication that he's looking to buy anyone else, so the looming question among fans is: Will Cech's arrival be enough to win a Premier League or Champions League title?
The short-term target for Arsenal this season is to get off to a quick start. Last year, a string of poor showings early on halted any hopes the London club had of winning the league.
Arsenal has had a strong preseason, winning the Barclays Asia Trophy while on tour in Singapore and lifting the Emirates Cup at home for the first time since 2010. The Gunners beat Chelsea 1-0 in the Community Shield on Sunday, which will be a major confidence boost for the new season.
After back-to-back FA Cup titles the past two seasons, Arsenal hopes to win the league for the first time since 2004 and the trophy that Wenger really wants but still eludes him: the Champions League.
As Arsenal kicks off its league challenge, here a couple of things to know:
GETTING A BACKBONE
Cech has given a couple of reasons as to why he chose No. 33 as his shirt number, tweeting that he's starting a "new chapter at 33 years of age with 333 games in the Premier League ... That's an easy choice." Then, he added quite tellingly that he hopes "to be a part of the spine of the team - spine has 33 vertebrae."
For years, Arsenal has been criticized for lacking a backbone in defense, and Cech may finally resolve that complaint if he can repeat the form he had at Chelsea.
Although Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho delegated Cech mostly to the bench last season in favor of Thibaut Courtois, the Czech international helped Chelsea to win the Premier League and League Cup. Overall, Chelsea won four Premier League titles, the Champions League and three league cups with Cech.
Cech will take over from Arsenal's official No. 1, Wojciech Szczesny, who has been loaned out to Roma. The Poland international, prone to mistakes, was sidelined last season after photos of him smoking were published in the media. David Ospina slotted in for Szczesny and did well, but he is expected to deputize for Cech.
CONTINUITY IN ATTACK
Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla both signed new contract extensions with Arsenal, and with Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck also remaining on board, the team's attack won't differ much from last year.
Arsenal's forwards and midfielders shared around the goals in the 2014-2015 campaign, and the 6-0 thrashing of Lyon in pre-season is an indication that the team again won't rely on just one or two players to score.
With the attack sorted, Wenger is taking a gamble by seemingly not being in the market for another central defender or a defensive midfielder. Francis Coquelin was a surprise success in the latter role last season, but if he can't repeat his form or if he picks up an injury, Arsenal doesn't have much cover for that position.
Wenger, as he has done in previous years, said he won't cave in to pressure to spend just for the sake of spending.
"I think what you want is not to listen too much to what people say, because sometimes in the same week I get two different reproaches: one I don't spend enough and one too much," he said.
"I believe if you want to create success, which we want desperately ... focus on inside and try to do as well as we can, believe in the football we want to play, play it as well as we can and let other people talk."