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All Guns Blazing: Petr Cech is proving a captain-like presence for Arsenal

17:41 22 January 2016

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech applauds the fans. Picture: PA/John Walton

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech applauds the fans. Picture: PA/John Walton

PA/Press Association Images

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti looks at the authoritive Czech goalkeeper as his old team prepares to visit.

It’s often said that Arsene Wenger doesn’t care for captains, preferring responsibility to be shared out across the team. Over recent years, he seems to have taken this philosophy – unfashionable among Britain’s ‘proper football men’ – to its logical extreme, by ensuring our last two captains actually start from the bench.

Yet reflecting on last weekend’s draw with Stoke City, it’s hard to overstate the importance of Petr Cech – a man who throughout this season has impressed not just with his saves, but as a captain in all but name.

Some might disagree, but experience and leadership hasn’t been in short supply at Arsenal lately. Mikel Arteta has by all accounts been a sage-like dressing-room presence; Per Mertesacker is an authoritative organiser of a much-improved defence; and even the work-rate of less vocal players such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez has set the tone on the pitch.

Yet Cech’s arrival has arguably gone the furthest towards completing our title-shaped puzzle, with his attention to detail evident almost every time he speaks. Take, for example: “I speak to the full-backs in Spanish, to Koscielny in French and to Per in English because for him it is the same as me.

“Sometimes foreign players wouldn’t know what you say. That’s when you realise it’s easier to say it in their language than hoping they will understand.”

There’s no doubting that Cech goes the extra mile. His professionalism and experience, as much as his ability, are better than any keeper we have had since David Seaman (sorry Jens, you’re still loved), and with every day that goes by, it becomes even more unbelievable that Chelsea allowed him to join us.

Whether Wenger’s sole summer signing will prove enough to turn us into champions remains to be seen, but in a season prone to unpredictability, the Czech international’s unerring consistency will no doubt be key.

As any reader who has stumbled across this column before will know, my dislike of Chelsea is almost an anti-fandom unto itself, so perhaps the best compliment I can give Cech is that he feels like an Arsenal player. Supremely talented, intelligent and – most importantly – lacking the character flaws you associate with The Team Formerly Known As Jose Mourinho’s, he could well be the signing of the season. Let’s hope he shows it on Sunday.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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