Arsenal's balance symbolic for Cech

Former rivals and now Arsenal colleagues Petr Cech (left) and fellow goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (right) at the National Stadium last week at an open training session during the Barclays Asia Trophy.
Former rivals and now Arsenal colleagues Petr Cech (left) and fellow goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (right) at the National Stadium last week at an open training session during the Barclays Asia Trophy.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

LONDON • Having spent 11 years winning trophies at Chelsea, which often meant denying them to Arsenal, it could have taken Petr Cech time to feel comfortable after crossing the capital to north London.

But the club's new goalkeeper has been accepted straight away, even featuring in their first piece of silverware in the new season - the Barclays Asia Trophy which they won in Singapore on Saturday, beating fellow Premier League club Everton 3-1 in the final.

Even his putative rival, Wojciech Szczesny, welcomed him warmly with a message on Instagram, while Per Mertesacker, a World Cup winner, was saying that Cech's presence had made a difference to the atmosphere in the Arsenal dressing room within a week.

The hope that Cech's winning mentality would rub off on his new team-mates was one of the reasons that persuaded Arsene Wenger to take the uncharacteristic step of signing an experienced goalkeeper. But the man himself claims that such analysis does Arsenal a disservice.

Cech has been surprised by the similarities between the dressing room that he left behind at Stamford Bridge and his new place of work, insisting that the unity, desire and self-belief are the same, despite widespread claims to the contrary. Having won 13 trophies at Chelsea, he recognises the signs.

"There are a lot of things in common between the two clubs," he said. "Nobody wants to lose games, and everybody wants to win so we're all focusing on getting ready for the season.

"We want to have a successful season, which means we have to be prepared, as there are a lot of opponents in the pack - in the Premier League and the Champions League - who will have the same targets.

"What I've found (at Arsenal) is a group of players who work very hard and are focused on what they're doing on the pitch to get ready. I've found the team spirit quite extraordinary... which is why I believe we will have a successful season."

The 33-year-old has not been given any guarantees by Wenger of his status in a squad that includes Szczesny and David Ospina. Yet it is clear that he will start the season as Arsenal's No. 1 goalkeeper, beginning with the Community Shield against Chelsea on Aug 2.

Having left a group relatively short on numbers because of Jose Mourinho's preference for relying on a small core of senior players, Cech believes that Arsenal's greatest asset is the depth of their squad.

The level of competition for places in midfield will be particularly intense this season, while Wenger also possesses an enviable range of contrasting options in attack, thanks to the versatility of many of his players.

"There are a lot of talented players in our team, but the real strength lies in our numbers," said the Frenchman.

"We have a good balance. We have players with a lot of experience who have won the World Cup, for example, and young players who want to prove their point and play as much as possible."

Chelsea have lost only one of their past nine meetings against Arsenal, continuing the remarkable statistic that Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in 13 attempts, but Cech believes that his arrival could tip the balance.

"I hope to be on the winning side again, it's as simple as that," he said. "I play football to win games and obviously I will be facing Chelsea soon - so I want to beat them."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'Arsenal's balance symbolic for Cech'. Print Edition | Subscribe