World class keeper? Check.
The most wretched-to-watch Arsenal display since the 5-1 to Liverpool way back. It was uncomfortable. An absolute mess defensively. Horror shows all round. I almost turned it off, breaking out into hot sweats, feeling my heart pump to death. Pretty much the standard Arsenal experience. But what’s that? It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s Superman! No. It’s Petr Cech. What a hero.
So, the alarm bells were pretty loud by the time the team sheet came to light. Our wall had been completely ripped out, and stitched together with a young, heavily exposed Chambers, and Gabriel who can’t speak English all too well. It’s not what you want to see before a big game. They’ll be great for Arsenal in the long run, Chambers was outstanding in his début flurry of games for Arsenal, and Gabriel shows potential with every game – he looks like he’s got it all. All he really needs is to settle and play more, same with Chambers, two gifted defenders thrust into the deep end, with a manager to soft with his current first eleven. Too kind to drop Santi. Ramsey can never be dropped. Ozil has to play. Sanchez is the golden boy. It’s a bad way to manage. All brilliant players, yes. But never what we need at home to Liverpool. Where’s the aggression? Where’s the power and the pace he bangs on about every game? Theo Walcott’s 10 minute outings are becoming astonishing. He’s our best finisher. Sat on the bench when Giroud lumbers around doing absolutely nothing. He was dreadful last night. And yes I’m bashing him. But come on. How many big games do we have to sit through with him playing like that? Watching him struggling with the basics, like running, it’s soul destroying. We needed Theo for the full 90. Didn’t happen. Zero goals. Saved only by the magnificent titan that was Petr Cech.
He commanded the box when the wall in front of him seemed eager to collapse. Mistakes came all over the park. Chambers passed out from the back and put the keeper under intimidate stress, and if it wasn’t for the excellent Coquelin, we could have been two down before Cech touched the ball. I’ve also seen some criticism for Coquelin, and whilst we need cover for him, to pick him out as the problem for our lack of control over games because he doesn’t take the ball under pressure is wrong. He’s been a star for a while. Seems like many are quick to jump on his back because they’re desperate for him to flop so we sign somebody else. The real worrying sign is a season with Giroud as no.1. Anyway, back to Superman. The first big save in Arsenal colours was a brilliant stop from Benteke firing at point blank range. Last season that shot goes in and we go into full meltdown and concede another four. Cech had other ideas, a brilliant idea in fact – stop the team from imploding with his giant hands. And we were in his precious hands for most of the game. He kept the team alive, when everything looked to go wrong. It’s not a miracle. He’s an incredible keeper and he showed it again. Other keepers applauded on twitter, knowing the brilliance on display. Did that look like a keeper in decline on Monday night? That was a player performing at his greatest heights. He had a wobbly start to Arsenal, not helped by the worrying signs shredding through the team. But he was always going to explode back onto the scene, and what a way to do it. A hellish night for the fans, but not without its glimmer of light.
Liverpool thought they’d scored, Brendan Rogers cheered. Great stuff. But the stunning save that sent our nervous faces over the edge came later in the first half. Coutinho, who was outstanding all game and looks frightening at times, shimmied and dummied before curling his effort to the far corner. Cech flew across in his Superhero outfit and tipped it onto the bar with the faintest touch. Incredible. We haven’t witnessed an Arsenal keeper dominate the headlines in quite some time. It’s a big plus on a terrifying night. This season is already flat, it’s embarrassing. It’s astonishing from Wenger. I think everybody is speechless, and with every right. Still, it was nice to see Cech own the night.