Cech’s confirmed role raises transfer questions about Chelsea in the upcoming January transfer window
Ever since Chelsea legend Petr Cech departed the club in 2015 after an incredible 11-year stint with the Blues, the goalkeeping position is one that they’ve struggled to fill.
First it was Asmir Begovic and Thibaut Courtois that shared responsibilities in between the sticks but both would be out of the club within the next two years, with the latter leaving under poor circumstances in a move to La Liga giants Real Madrid. The summer of 2018 marked the arrival of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper – a then-24-year-old Kepa Arrizabalaga who was backed up by experienced Premier League veteran Willy Caballero.
The Spaniard’s time with the club was tarnished by a few mistakes which were often held under a microscope by both supporters and the media, mainly down to his enormous price tag of £72m. The most famous of those incidents came in his first season with the club, when he refused to be substituted for Caballero in the 2019 EFL Cup Final against Manchester City.
Despite saving one penalty, Chelsea lost 4–3 and he was fined a week’s wages by manager Maurizio Sarri. Until 2021, he’d see his place as the Blues No.1 unchallenged until Thomas Tuchel’s tenure saw the usage of Senegalese international Edouard Mendy who was instrumental in helping the club win its second Champions League title.
However, both of those stars are no longer in the squad, with Mendy’s poor performances last season seeing him shipped off to Saudi Arabia while Kepa is very much enjoying his loan move with Real Madrid, even hinting that he’d like to stay there if possible – effectively now having played his final match for Chelsea.
Now the pressure of the No.1 shirt has fallen to summer signing Robert Sanchez – who has generally gone incident-free over his tenure so far. The star has come under some criticism for some poor decision-making, in particular a dodgy pass which allowed Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice to get the Gunners back into what should’ve a 2-0 done deal which ended up finishing 2-2.
Amidst rumours that the Blues were thinking about signing another new shot-stopper in January, manager Mauricio Pochettino was steadfast in his support for the 25-year-old earlier this season. “We are seeing too many mistakes in different leagues and different countries,” the Blues manager told reporters.
“He is very relaxed, he is very calm. He is very good. I think we are there to try and help. We are helping him, he is calm. He knows, we know, football is about mistakes, the responsibility is with the whole team. The coaching staff is the first as we transmit the idea of how we want to play.
“To blame someone is to blame us, myself, but not him. He is delivering what we want and of course, maybe you can miss a penalty, you can miss a pass.”
But as his former club tries to take a step in the direction, Cech takes the next step in his own life, now having been sent on loan to Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) side Belfast Giants from National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) side Oxford City Stars. Having taken up ice hockey after retiring from football, he’s established himself as a regular in the sport.
However, back at the Blues, the situation around the goalkeeper remains yet another puzzle for Pochettino to solve during his tenure at Stamford Bridge. Whether Sanchez is given the backing of those at the top, or whether he’s moved aside as a backup for another option in January, only time will tell but the decision must be made quick.