Why Chelsea Goalkeeper Petr Cech Should Remain No. 1 Choice for Jose Mourinho
Unlike their outfield colleagues, it's said goalkeepers reach their peak as they enter their 30s. If that is the case, Premier League clubs and the rest of Europe best prepare themselves for the arrival of one Petr Cech.
Now 31, this season marks his tenth in English football and in that time he has grown to become a legend at Chelsea, lifting trophies and breaking records in the process. Not only that, he has cemented his position as one of the finest goalkeepers to have graced British shores.
Considering that he has achieved so much, the fact that his best years are still expected ahead of him is a scary thought. Yet it could have been so different, of course.
A fractured skull, suffered in the now infamous 1-0 victory over Reading at the Madejski Stadium in October 2006—a game that also saw his teammate Carlo Cudicini suffer serious injury—threatened to end Cech's top flight career.
He was on the sidelines for three months before making a surprise comeback against Liverpool at Anfield that January.
With or without their Czech stopper, Chelsea would have more than likely lost that day. Liverpool were on form, determined to come away with all three points and they did, winning 2-0.
Jose Mourinho's team had failed to deal with the Reds' tempo and desire, but those watching at the stadium and at home couldn't help notice that Cech's performance was a shadow of what we'd come to expect.
His judgement was lacking, while for the first time in his time at Stamford Bridge, he had the look of a man who felt he didn't belong.
Just returning from a life threatening injury—let alone a career threatening problem—was always going to be difficult, although the reports and opinion pieces that followed read like a eulogy to his career, telling the story of his demise.
As we've since found out they were somewhat premature, yet it would prove a long time before we consistently saw the best of him again.
In fact, it wasn't until the back of 2011-12 as Chelsea went on to lift the Champions League that Cech looked truly dominant. When previously his reactions and decision-making would come and go, that year he was sharp and ready once again.
Cech more than played his part in helping Roberto Di Matteo reach the Champions League final in Munich, and he went on to make a string of fine saves in the match against "home team" Bayern.
He even denied former teammate Arjen Robben from 12 yards, when the Dutch ace saw his extra-time penalty saved by the Blues' No. 1. Not long after Chelsea would be holding the European Cup aloft having clinched victory in the penalty shoot-out.
Coincidentally, it was Cech's performance against Bayern once again that has reminded us of why he remains first choice for Mourinho.
Back in his homeland this August for the Super Cup at Prague's Eden Stadium, Cech's performance was sensational.
In a game that threw out the form book of Super Cups past, plenty of goalmouth action at both ends ensured for a thrilling encounter. At times Chelsea dominated, while at others Bayern had the Blues on the ropes.
Who should be the first-choice goalkeeper at Chelsea?
When Mourinho's men looked up against it, their goalkeeper came to the rescue on more than one occasion, pulling off a string of fine saves to deny the likes of Franck Ribery and Mario Mandzukic. It was vintage Cech.
While some players are looking to wind down their career as Father Time ticks along when they get the wrong side of 30, it seems Cech is just getting started.
He looks reinvigorated under Mourinho, harking back to that August afternoon in 2004 when the Portuguese coach gave Cech his Blues debut against Manchester United.
In a sign of things to come, he kept a clean sheet against Sir Alex Ferguson's men. It was the first of 144 to date in the Premier League and Chelsea fans can look forward to many more yet.
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