SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The arrival of goalkeeper Petr Cech has given Arsenal’s unfairly criticised defensive unit a welcome boost and could be the missing piece in the title puzzle, his new side have said.
Pundits and fans have frequently cited last line weaknesses as the reason why Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2004, with David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny both culpable for errors last term as the side finished third, 12 points behind champions Chelsea.
But the signing of the renowned Czech international, who enjoyed a trophy-laden decade at Chelsea before being usurped by Belgian Thibaut Courtois last term, has spurred belief of bridging the gap.
The goalkeeper is in line to make his first Arsenal appearance when the FA Cup winners kick off their pre-season in the Asian trophy against a Singapore select on Wednesday but his impact on the squad has already been felt.
“From day one you felt his presence, he is the type, he communicates well on and off the pitch, speaks several languages so I think he can add that extra we may miss at the moment,” German defender Per Mertesacker told reporters in Singapore on Tuesday.
”We are very happy with him and I think he has a good feeling as well about joining us and contributing to our team.
“We had already a good structure, but with him we feel much stronger.”
Mertesacker knows more than most the problems that Arsenal have faced at the back in recent years as they have struggled to put together a consistent 38-match title challenging campaign.
The World Cup-winner, though, believes Arsenal’s issues were overstated and that the backline were already strong before the arrival of the 33-year-old goalkeeper.
“It gives you a lift when you have someone with that presence and record in our back,” he said.
“We feel quite confident at the back. There were many doubters out there but we feel we are stronger.”
One reporter suggested to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger that the arrival of Cech had solved the goalkeeping problem that existed since the departure of Jens Lehmann over seven years ago.
“Look it’s quite simple if you go back to the numbers. We have no obvious goalkeeping problem,” said the Frenchman, whose side had the third best defensive record last term behind Chelsea and Southampton.
”In the last 19 games we conceded 13 goals and we want to maintain that record or improve it but that would be very, very difficult.
“That means 26 goals conceded in a season, that is exceptional. We have improved our record during the season last year, we want to maintain that and stabilise and if possible improve that.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly