Why allowing Petr Cech to join Arsenal from Chelsea was the decent thing to do
Jim White explains the benefits of Petr Cech's seemingly-controversial move across London, including why it benefits anyone with working ears.
Across the country football fans must be celebrating the news emanating from the Emirates that Petr Cech is finally officially and without question joining Arsenal.
There will be dancing in the streets, outbreaks of public euphoria, and in Liverpool someone is probably, even as you read this, stitching a commemorative banner to mark the occasion. Joy will be unconfined.
And this is not because Arsenal have stolen a march in next season’s title race. Not because, by John Terry’s estimate, the Gunners have guaranteed themselves an additional 12 to 15 points for the new campaign. Not because Arsene Wenger has finally managed to outwit his long-term managerial nemesis Jose Mourinho. None of that will be appreciated outside the confines of London N1.
No why the rest of the world will be cheering is because it means we have heard the last of that David Ospina chant.
Nothing against the personable Colombian, who seems a genuine guy just trying to make his way in the world. What grated beyond control was the noise that accompanied his every intervention.
Every time he addressed a dead ball a certain section of the Arsenal crowd took it upon itself to soundtrack his hoof with a collective cry of “Ozzzzzzpeeenaaaah” followed by a self-congratulatory chuckle, as if this was the funniest thing they had ever heard.
And every time they did so the rest of the footballing world found their teeth set on edge. What was the point of it? Football crowds are renowned for the wit of their vocal interjections. Arsenal followers themselves are more than capable of producing a humorous observation, take their chant about the Tottenham fan meeting the Pope. But that was just wretched, a woeful misreading of the intents and purposes of the crowd interjection.
And now, fortunately, it is no more. Now that Cech has been signed, Ospina is not going to hang around sitting on the bench interminably, obliged to watch a superior talent propel Arsenal forwards.
He is expected to join Fenerbahce, where the crowd, we can only hope, has more taste than to ape the Emirates faithful. And even if they don’t, even if they insist on such moronic vocalisations, at least – except in Champions League encounters – the rest of us won’t be obliged to listen.
Cech, meanwhile, does not have sufficient syllables in his surname to be lauded in such a manner. Thankfully. Instead, he is likely to be celebrated by his new supporters for much more tangible reasons than having a surname that scans some inane vocal intervention.
For a start this is a proper signing by Wenger. If part of the purpose of entering the transfer market is to weaken opponents as much as strengthen yourself, then the Arsenal boss has achieved a rare double here. Cech is a proper goalkeeper: athletic, strong, experienced. The fact is Arsenal have not had one of those since David Seaman.
But more to the point, you only had to study the expression on Jose Mourinho’s face to appreciate the damage his removal from the Bridge has done. Mourinho may have claimed to have been moved to tears by Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory in 2013, but you suspect Petr Cech heading across town to Arsenal will have disturbed his emotions far more.
For sure, he may have believed that Cech was not as effective a performer these days as Thibaut Courtois. And he may be right. But that does not mean he reckons the big Czech has lost his poise or purpose. The manager knows how good the guy still is. And the last thing he would have wanted was the keeper’s exceptional talent to be made available to a local rival. If the player was no longer prepared to act as understudy then let him go to France or Spain or Italy, where his expertise could only stand in the way of Chelsea through the fortunes of the Champions League draw.
But this way, he will be there at least twice a season in the flesh, and every week on television, giving Arsenal a much more effective championship thrust. Even thinking about it is enough to make Mourinho let out a huge roar of annoyance. Something, in short, that sounds very like “Ozzzzzzpeeenaaaah”.
So it is credit to Roman Abramovich that he didn’t pay any heed to Mourinho’s clear advice that Cech should not under any circumstance be sold to a direct rival (after all that is the kind of thing Arsenal used to do every summer). Instead, he took account of the player’s magnificent eleven year record of service to the club and decided as a reward he should be gifted the opportunity to go wherever he wished.
And since his family is settled in London, and he wanted to continue playing at roughly the level he had been for the past decade, the only place he wished to go was Arsenal (let’s be honest, QPR was never an option). A decent, human response to loyalty: who would have thought it possible in modern football?
We can but hope that the Arsenal fans respond to such generosity of spirit by coming up with a chant that is distinctly less irritating than that attached to their previous keeper.