On the Spot: Petr Cech

Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.

Petr Cech

Chelsea's Petr Cech

Action Images

The Premier League has seen its fair share of legendary goalkeepers during its existence. One of those legends made a big switch over the summer trading one London club’s colors for another. This man is none other than the great Petr Cech.

Czech Beginnings

Before he was dominating European competition, Petr Cech was just a kid playing for his hometown team Skoda Plzen. At that time, he wasn’t even a goalie. The future Premier League legend was lining up in the attacking third of the field.

After playing keeper during training sessions, Cech’s promise was noticed by his club’s goalkeeping coach, but he didn’t make the move just yet. After a growth spurt saw the youngster shoot up more than six inches to a towering 6 ft. 4 in. Cech would spend a couple more years with his hometown club adjusting to his new role between the pipes before making the move to a bigger club.

At the beginning of the 1999/00 campaign, the 17-year-old keeper made the move to Chmel Blsany in the Czech first division. After a year watching from the sidelines and transitioning to a more competitive environment, Cech was the starter for the majority of the 2000/01 campaign.  His time with Blsany was short-lived, and after just two seasons with the club, Cech again found himself on the move before the 2001/02 season.

This time, it was Sparta Prague that came knocking for the young keeper’s services. The Czech giants paid a hefty fee of 20 million Czech crowns and that fee was quickly justified by the 19-year-old’s performances. In his one and only season with the club, Cech kept a clean sheet for 903 consecutive minutes, a league record. That year also gave the keeper a chance to make his debut in the UEFA Champions League, starting eight of the club’s matches in the prestigious tournament.

Running with Rennes

Cech with Rennes

An impressive year with Sparta Prague paired with an impressive performance at the U21 Euros that summer, earned Cech some interest from abroad. French club Rennes signed the young keeper for a reported transfer fee of €5.5 million and he quickly found himself starting for the Ligue 1 side. His time in France wasn’t exactly a luxurious stay.

In his first season with Rennes, the club narrowly escaped relegation by beating Montpellier on the final match day of the season. That year, Czech started all but one of his new club’s fixtures. It was clear that he needed time to adjust to the added pressure and expectations of playing a “big” league, but it was only a matter of time before he would star to shine.

To the Bridge

Chelsea keeper Petr Cech

Cech would spend just one more year with Rennes before once again making a move to a bigger club. In February of 2004, his transfer to Premier League giants Chelsea was agreed with the keeper staying with Rennes until the end of the 2003/04 campaign. Chelsea had to shell out a reported fee of just £7 million for their new keeper and what a bargain that would turn out to be.

Despite initially being as a backup for Carlo Cudicini, Cech would quickly earn the starting role for his new club. In his first year with the club, Cech helped lead Chelsea to just its second-ever league title. The Blues thoroughly dominated the league that year, winning the title by a 12-point margin while also posting the best defensive record in the league.

A major reason for that impressive defensive form was Cech’s unbelievable performances between the pipes. That year, the 22-year-old kept ten consecutive clean sheets (a stretch of 1025 minutes) setting a Premier League record. Along with the league title, Cech also took home a League Cup winner’s medal and the Premier League Golden Gloves award for the season’s best keeper.

Over the next two seasons, Cech would continue to stand as Chelsea’s uncontested starting keeper. His dominance in net was a major factor in the club’s title defense in the 2005/06 campaign. Everything was looking up for the keeper, but something was about to complicate matters.

The Introduction of the Helmet

During the 2006/07 campaign, Cech was forced to go onto the operating table to fix up a nagging shoulder injury. This brief setback did little to hinder his continued dominance for Chelsea, but his next injury would prove to be a very serious affair.

His fourth season at Chelsea began with a seven-game unbeaten run. During that good run of form, Cech was able to keep four clean sheets and it looked like he was on his way to yet another Golden Glove Award. That dream was temporarily derailed, however, after a collision with Reading forward Stephen Hunt.

The dangerous clash left the keeper with a fractured skull. This serious injury forced Cech to miss over three months of action, and inspired him to wear the helmet that has now become his calling card. On his return to action, the 25-year-old keeper showed no signs of rust as he kept a six-save clean sheet against rivals Liverpool. After his comeback, Cech helped lead Chelsea to a second-place finish in the league as well as triumphs both the FA and League Cups.

Injury once again forced Cech to miss time during the 2007/08 campaign. This time, a calf strain placed him on the sidelines for nearly a month. Despite this brief injury layoff, the big Czech did manage to rack up his 100th Premier League clean sheet. This season also saw manager José Mourinho replaced by Avram Grant. Even with the change in management, Cech and Chelsea still fought their way to the Champions League Final against Manchester United. It just wasn’t meant to be for the Blues, though as United barely edged past them on penalties (one of my favorite days as a United fan). That year marked the first time in Cech’s Chelsea career that the Blues had failed to win a single piece of silverware throughout the season.

After this rare trophy-less season, Chelsea rebounded quickly over the next two years. Cech and Blues fought their way to another FA Cup victory in May 2009, and then proceeded to beat reigning champions Manchester United in the subsequent Community Shield. 2009/10 saw Chelsea continue their resurgence in the league as they improved upon the previous year’s third place finish by edging United out by one point for the title. The glory didn’t stop there as the Blues went on to win a second consecutive FA Cup against relegation side Portsmouth. That season also saw Cech claim his second Golden Gloves Award as the best keeper in the league.

The next season again saw Cech’s squad struggle to win silverware. In the league, the Blues fell nine points short of the title. Their defense of the FA Cup lasted just two matches as Everton eliminated them in the fourth round. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all came in Europe as United again knocked Cech and co. out of the Champions League, this time in the quarterfinals.

Finally Champions

A rather disappointing year was followed up by one of the biggest triumphs in Cech’s illustrious career. While the team looked lackluster in the Premier League, they thrived in cup competition. Not only did Cech help his side win yet another FA Cup, he also found himself in another Champions League final. A sixth place finish in the league meant that the only way Chelsea would find themselves in the famed European tournament next season would be if they beat Bayern Munich in the final.

With the final being played in Munich, Chelsea went into the match as heavy underdogs to their German counterparts. After ending regulation deadlocked at 1-1, the match went into extra time and Cech delivered arguably one of the biggest saves of his career. A trip by Didier Drogba on Frank Ribery in the 93rd minute, gave Arjen Robben the chance to put his side ahead from the spot. The Dutchman tried to send his penalty low into the corner, but Cech made a brilliant diving save to keep Chelsea alive. Chelsea would go on to win in penalties to claim their first ever European title.

His final years at Chelsea didn’t exactly pan out as everyone had planned. Despite sharing the Golden Gloves title with Arsenal keeper Wojiech Szczesny for the 2013/14 season, the arrival of Thibault Courtois the following year saw the veteran relegated to a backup position. After the Belgian’s arrival, Cech made just six starts in the league and it became clear that if he wanted to start he’d have to move on from Stamford Bridge.

To the Emirates

Petr Cech on Arsenal

Getty Images

In the summer of 2015, it was announced that Petr Cech’s distinguished 11-year career at Chelsea would be coming to an end. London rivals Arsenal paid a reported fee of £10 million to bring the legendary keeper into the squad, and they quickly became one of the favorites to bring home this season’s title. Cech’s first competitive match for the Gunners came against his former employers as they took on Chelsea in the Community Shield. The 33-year-old came out a winner on the day, shutting out the Blues to secure a 1-0 victory for his new club. This year, Cech has managed to also record his 170th Premier League clean sheet, a new record.

International Career

Petr Cech, Czech Republic keeper

Petr Cech has played for every level of the Czech Republic’s national team set up from U-15 and up. He has represented his nation at various youth tournaments including the U21 Euros in 2002 where his saves in the penalty shootout helped win the tournament.

In his first major tournament, Cech helped push the Czech Republic all the way to the semifinals of Euro 2004 and also earned goalkeeper of the tournament honors for his performances. He would go on to play in the 2006 World Cup, but would fail to get out of the group stage. Cech was also the starter for the country’s runs during both the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, but has yet to claim a title. Currently, he is the joint-record holder for the most international appearances for the Czech Republic, tied with Karel Pobrosky at 118.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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