Doesn’t Petr Cech just sound like one of the nicest people in football. Never a bad word to say about anybody and, having worked under Jose Mourinho twice, he would have plenty of reason to spill the odd bit of bile, in the mould of his one-time manager. But no, he’s just a happy chap, until he gets on the football field. Then he’s a commanding ‘keeper who talks to his defence, organises, cajoles and chivvies along.
But I bet even when he’s doing that in a game, he does it in a nice way, authoritative but nice.
Even when he was at Chelski with some of the most unsavoury of teammates, whilst I found it easy to hate the club and players as a result of their one and off field behaviour, I found a begrudging respect for him.
So it’s quite nice that we’ve taken one of the few nice guys from that lot, slotted him in to our team and as a result, we look like a better outfit. It’s also lovely that despite the fact the majority of the clean sheets that contributed to his record number of clean sheets he now has, were with Chelski, the record was equal led and beaten whilst he was at The Arsenal and we get to celebrate that because Chelski are too busy worrying about parachute payments next season.
He’s so humble in his accolade too. He talks about how he doesn’t really go in for individual awards and that its nice to be recognised. I believe him, but as a former ‘keeper myself, I wonder if he doesn’t take too much stock in the award because the reality is that in some of those clean sheets he would have barely touched the ball. A clean sheet is the reward of not just the ‘keeper, but back four and sometimes the whole team, where as scoring a goal is a little more difficult and does usually involve you having to do something in achieving it. Even if a ball bounces in off your nose, you’ve still got to have good positioning to get there for it to hit you, where as there will have been some games where Cech will have essentially been a passenger.
But let’s not dwell on any half empty glasses, let’s just celebrate that he’s a great ‘keeper and he’s ours.
Whilst his position is pretty assured, one player who’s also been on the official site talking, but is not as assured is The Ox. He’s given an interview via the Arsenal podcast in which he talks about his versatility, but his ultimate preference in playing centrally.
He’s an enigma, is The Ox. Back in September I was featured in the Arsenal magazine talking about how it’s going to be a big season for him. He’d just scored the only goal of the game in the Community Shield against Chelski and the expectations that this could be a big season for him were high. I wondered if he would displace Ramsey as a more natural wide right choice. Or whether Theo would establish himself centrally and leave Giroud out of the team. But it’s fair to say it hasn’t quite happened for Alex yet.
I can’t put my finger on why. He has the talent. Just think back to games against Milan and Bayern, or a particularly dominant Premier League performance in the centre of the park against Palace at home a couple of seasons ago. He’s shown he is good with the ball at his feet, can chip in with decent goals and is physical enough to compete in the Premier League. Yet he just doesn’t quite look 100% there yet. The raw materials are there, but we’re yet to see a finished player.
Does he – as he suggests in the interview – need to be playing centrally where he is more comfortable? Or is he in a similar situation to Campbell, in which he just needs a string of games to build a rhythm and momentum to his game? He admits in the interview that when he’s playing out wide, there are spells in which he has to come in field more, something which Ramsey has said and which many people have maligned Theo for playing out wide when he can go 10minutes without getting near a touch.
Is it therefore harder to establish yourself as a wide man than centrally? Is that why we may never get the chance to see the best of The Ox, because he’s not influencing play enough? If that’s the case – i.e. that he needs to play centrally for a prolonged period of time – I think he’s unlikely to ever get his wish. Well, not unless the most catastrophic injury crisis engulfs the team, again. That’s what gave Joel and Coquelin their chance. But I just get the feeling The Ox won’t get that opportunity. Sure, he might get one or two games centrally over Christmas, but getting six or seven in a row? Doubtful.
So what does he need to do to nail a spot in the first XI? To me, it’s about him nailing that position on the right, firstly displacing Joel and then making it impossible for Arsène to move Rambo back out wide when our other midfielders come back fit. He needs to get back to being the tricky wide player who can beat a man, whilst also being able to weigh in with a few goals too. He also needs to stop gv ing the ball away in our defensive third of the pitch!
If he can get his confidence back, get back to being the player we all know is in there, he’ll be a handful for anybody and a massive asset going in to the second half of the season.