Tag Archives: Petr Cech

Why there should be more goalkeeper pundits on TV

As an amateur goalkeeper, it’s always frustrating when people don’t appreciate just how hard the role really is.

It’s completely different to playing outfield; you can’t make a sloppy pass to the other team, quietly retreat into your shell or take a poor first touch, as any of these will almost always lead to a goal.

Us goalkeepers are mentally rather than the physically  exhausted after a game. It’s 90 minutes of pure focus, with no chance to switch off because a team can break in three seconds and be bearing down on you on the counter.

As a result, I always find it difficult when the usual gang of pundits on whichever channel is broadcasting a televised game begin to criticise the goalkeepers because, usually, none of them were ever one.

The BBC’s usual suspects, or Sky’s Soccer Saturday squad all feature outfield players of questionable qualities in their own positions, let alone in goal.

Future in punditry

Therefore, it was a breath of fresh air when Petr Cech made his punditry debut on the BBC as Leicester City played Chelsea in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

The Arsenal goalkeeper, 35, stepped up from the pitch to the studio to essentially put his foot in the door for a future in punditry before hanging up is gloves in the next 12 or so months.

Despite not having to be called upon for the highest quality of insight, there was a flash of what having a ‘keeper does to the rest of the panel, especially when reviewing someone between the sticks.

Leicester’s equaliser came from their fourth attempt in two seconds. Two blocks from defenders followed by Willy Caballero’s parried save fell into the path of Jamie Vardy, whose attempt crept through the hands of the Chelsea ‘keeper to draw the Foxes level.

As soon as the goal went in, Danny Murphy, co-commentating alongside Guy Mowbray on the night, was quick to suggest Caballero’s “disappointment” in himself, as the ball he initially saved bounced back into the path of Vardy via his knee.

Nothing new

In the post-match analysis, however, Cech was quick to defend the actions of the goalkeeper, putting the blame simply on bad luck rather than an error that cost the team a goal.

The Czech pointed out the bodies in front of the ‘keeper during the three strikes prior to the goal and also the time he has to even get to the ball in the first place, which has to be commended.

‘Bullard’s inability to make the ball stick to his hands or move his body quickly across the ground cruelly exposed an outfield player’s ineptitude in the position’

Outfield players-turned-pundits harshly criticising goalkeepers is however nothing new.

In the Daily Mail, Mark Schwarzer, ex-goalie for Chelsea, Fulham and Middlesbrough, believes that pundits will not argue about the qualities of a ‘keeper like they would an outfield player, and would rather just leave an opinion on the table and everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

“Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has been this season’s whipping boy,” says the Australian. “He has made mistakes just as I did numerous times during my 22-year career. But a lot of the time he is unfairly criticised.

“A lot of pundits want a response and the publicity. It is ironic that if a goalkeeper does not attempt to reach a shot, he is almost let off. The view will be: ‘He had no chance’. Yet if he does well to get a decent hand on it, they will say he should have saved it! That cannot be right and underlines a lack of expertise on the position.”

Challenge

What underlines their lack of knowledge on the position even more is what happens when we see an outfield player actually pull on the gloves.

Soccer AM’s weekly segment You Know The Drill, featuring Jimmy Bullard, sends the midfielder up and down the country to take on teams in drills and challenges devised by a team’s coaches.

Two seasons ago, Burnley boss Sean Dyche decided to mix up the challenge by putting Bullard alongside Tom Heaton to go through some goalkeeping drills rather than the usual turn-and-score circuits that are staged.

As a result, Bullard’s inability to make the ball stick to his hands or move his body quickly across the ground cruelly exposed an outfield player’s ineptitude in the position.

To top it off, the drills didn’t include anything to do with organisation or decision-making, the two things that make a truly great goalkeeper stand out from the rest.

Bullard even admits in the video: “It’s so much harder than it looks.”

This is why introducing more former goalkeepers as pundits will redress the balance when it comes to criticism.

If the berating were to continue, it could have the long-term effect of dissuading younger generations to become goalkeepers in the future.

Gunners show their grit at snowy Stoke

One win in eight visits to the Britannia Stadium for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.

It’s the stat that explains why Gunners fans dread the long journey to Stoke more than most away trips.

The Britannia is often portrayed as one of the most hostile locations for other teams to play at, a feared assault course for Premier League players to negotiate.

“When Tony Pulis was their manager, Stoke seemed to enjoy bullying opponents at the Britannia”

This year’s expedition to the Potteries from north London was accompanied by snow and ice, adding to the dread felt by the travelling hordes.

 I have family in Manchester which I go to see occasionally and I’ve had the opportunity to make several trips to Stoke to support Arsenal over the years, usually heading back south after yet another disappointment.

Would it be different this season? With Arsenal tipped by many for their first title since 2004, getting something at Stoke City would surely be a good omen for their ambitions.

Debut

Would the Gunners be helped by Stoke’s more attractive style of play under Mark Hughes? When Tony Pulis was their manager, they seemed to enjoy bullying opponents at the Britannia.

One thing that didn’t help them was the absence of the in-form Mesut Ozil. The German midfielder missed out because of a foot injury, allowing Mohamed Elneny to make his debut. The 23-year-old Egyptian recently completed his transfer from FC Basel.

After a 3-3 draw at Liverpool in their previous match, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started in the number 1o role, with Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey in the starting line up – the latter making this his 250th appearance for Arsenal – at the hub of midfield.

The hosts were unchanged from the line-up that defeated Norwich City. Stoke’s combination of pace and strength has left many teams with an uphill battle this season especially at home, with victories over both Manchester clubs and Chelsea. Would Arsenal be their next victim?

Rallied

The match got off to a slow start, and it took 20 minutes for the first serious threat from Stoke as Jonathan Walters found Marko Arnautovic outside the Arsenal box. The Austrian’s inventive flick made space for Afellay 20 yards out but his dangerous-looking strike went a yard or so wide.

“Butland was called upon again shortly afterwards when he was forced to tip over a fizzing effort from Oxlade-Chamberlain”

That seemed to spur Arsenal to switch on, and they pushed up the other end and created the best chance of the half.

Joel Campbell was the innovator, finding space 25 yards out before slipping the ball into the path of Olivier Giroud.

The Frenchman got clear of the hosts’ back four but saw his well-placed effort gathered up by Butland, who had charged out to narrow the angle.

The young England goalie was called upon again shortly afterwards when he was forced to tip over a fizzing effort from Oxlade-Chamberlain. At the other end, Petr Cech saved Joselu’s header as an evenly-matched first period ended.

 Direct

Arsenal could have taken the lead only 70 seconds after the restart. Again, it was Giroud who went close, with a strong header from Ramsey’s corner which forced Butland to make a outstanding reflex save at the near post.

“Arsenal weren’t losing, and their solid performance was a big improvement on what their fans were so used to seeing at Stoke”

The visitors were making progress, as Giroud and then Theo Walcott both had penalty claims waved away before Stoke rallied.

With Nacho Monreal pushing up, the home side counter-attacked, working the ball around well to make a good opportunity for Joselu who cleverly turned away from Laurent Koscienly before seeing his well-hit strike tipped away by Cech at full stretch.

Bojan looked set to take advantage of the rebound but the ever-alert Cech shuffled back to divert his shot wide.

Joselu then forced Cech into another fantastic save midway through the second half, although the visitors were by now pushing up into the final third without making it count.

Stretched 

But Arsenal weren’t losing, and their solid performance was a big improvement on what their fans were so used to seeing at Stoke.

Cech has, of course, made a big difference, keeping his team in games and  earning valuable points for the Gunners which might have slipped from their grasp. 

“For once, the journey home from Stoke was not a completely deflating one for Arsenal fans”

With the match becoming more stretched, Wenger brought on Alex Iwobi. The 19-year-old striker helped make a late opportunity for the Gunners, providing Oxlade-Chamberlain with a decent through ball to play into the lively Campbell who agonisingly curled it over the bar.

There was time for one more opportunity for Stoke but, fortunately for Arsenal, Ramsey was correctly positioned to clear Walters’ direct header off the line before Cech booted Joselu’s rebound shot clear to guarantee the point.

So an even contest ended at 0-0, thanks mainly to some world-class goalkeeping towards the end of the match. Arsenal kept their title challenge on track and, for once, the journey home from Stoke was not a completely deflating one for their fans.