Certainly not at Stamford Bridge. The big Czech is a legend there and Chelsea fans will always hold him in a special place in their footballing hearts. But outside of SW6 it seems, Čech’s talents go undervalued.
I’ll start off by admitting that I am indeed a Chelsea supporter, so forgive me if my views seem somewhat clouded by bias, but what I write about I really do believe to be true, and what I believe to be true is that Petr Čech is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, which is why after the PFA team of the year was announced I was disappointed, but hardly surprised to see someone other than Čech selected for the goalkeeping position.
For years I’ve believed that Čech doesn’t get the credit he deserves from non-Chelsea fans. Ever since his head injury in 2006, the consensus on Čech seems to be; “he’s not been the same since his injury”. Now while this may strictly be true, simply given how good he was during his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge, but year after year Čech seems to be getting back to the miraculous heights he set himself in 2005 and 2006. And boy were they high.
As someone who watches Čech every week (two times a week in the business end of the season), I have concluded that the past 18 months of Čech’s career have been his best since the injury. Some may disagree. But the performances he’s put in on a consistent basis have been remarkable. The last error I remember him making was in the winter of 2011. Chelsea were having their usual winter slump and André Villas-Boas’s time at Chelsea was running out. On a cold December evening at the DW stadium, Čech let slip a low cross which allowed Jordi Gomez to equalize with 2 minutes remaining. Since then, Čech has seemingly been sensational.
Everybody credits Didier Drogba for Chelsea’s Champions League triumph last season, and rightly so, but subsequently the efforts of Čech were somewhat overshadowed. People tend to forget that Čech made numerous great saves in both ties against Napoli, which kept Chelsea alive. In both legs against Barcelona the man was unbeatable. Yes obviously he conceded twice, but don’t put Barca’s misfortunes on both nights simply down to bad luck. Čech made countless important stops and was constantly alive for balls getting over the heads of his defenders. Then there was the final, what more needs to be said than six penalties faced, guessed the right way on all six, saved three. He was a hero, and had it not been for Didier Drogba he would have been ‘the’ hero.
This has little relevance now, but Čech has continued this form into the 2012/13 season without a shadow of a doubt, but due to Chelsea’s sudden fall from grace following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea and Čech have lost out on praise they probably would have received had they been gunning for the title.
But Čech has stayed as class as ever, as consistent as ever. He’s an all round great goalkeeper, coming for and catching crosses with ease, something which is easily undervalued as a goalkeeping trait but it’s something we see the likes of Pepe Reina and David De Gea struggling with. He organizes his defence superbly, which has been extremely beneficial this season given the extended absence of Chelsea’s captain and natural leader John Terry. Čech has taken over as the voice at the back for Chelsea while he’s been gone. We see Čech closing down on-rushing strikers, pulling off fantastic saves, making the right decision every time. He operates with a fantastic level of consistency.
And when he can pull off saves like he did against Liverpool in the FA Cup final last season and Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final this season, you know he’s a special talent. His save from Andy Carroll must rank as one of the great FA Cup final saves, and his save from Hernandez’s header was simply unfathomable and you had to watch it two or three times to get a full appreciation if what Čech had actually managed to pull off.
After having such a consistent and above all, high quality 18 months, I was disappointed, as I said, to not see Čech getting in the PFA team of the year. Now these things hardly matter when it comes to the big picture, but it would be nice to see Petr getting appreciated for what an immense talent he is. David De Gea the best goalkeeper of the 2012/13 season? I’m sorry but not even the most biased of Man United fans could defend that decision. However, in a team that also somehow featured Rio Ferdinand, I can’t say I’m exactly surprised.
In the last few seasons, there have been some decent new arrivals to the Premier League who could lay claim to being the Prem’s best. Tim Krul, Asmir Begovic, Ali Al-Habsi, Michel Vorm, Hugo Lloris, Julio Cesar and even Brad Guzan. These keepers have the element of surprise about them. People take more notice if Wigan’s keeper starts performing miracles or Stoke’s goalie begins to save everything that’s put in front of him. With Čech, and indeed other mainstays in the Premier League, like Mark Schwarzer and Brad Friedel, praise seems harder to come by as people are already aware of who you are and what your deal is.
The may just seem like a biased article basically complaining about the fortunes of others and lavishing praise upon my club’s number 1. But let me assure you this isn’t. I just feel that Čech deserves a little more recognition for his efforts than to be beaten to team of the year by a Spaniard who has a second extremely shaky year in Man United’s net.
Peter Schmeichel is the best goalkeeper of the Premier League era, but in my eyes (which you may argue are biased) Petr Čech is right up there with him.