Ahead of the start of the new English Premier League season, I’ve been looking at John Terry’s suggestion that Petr Cech is worth between 12 and 15 points in a season.
To be honest, my first thoughts were that Terry was a little generous — Cech might be worth five or six points at most. Then, last week, Alan Shearer reinforced the claim, stating he would improve Arsenal “by a number of points.” So I had a closer look at some key results from last season. How much of a difference could Cech have made to Arsenal’s tally last season?
Arsenal dropped four points in games in August 2014: a 2-2 draw with Everton and a 1-1 darw with Leicester City. Although Wojciech Szczesny had a few issues in these games, he wasn’t the only one. Credit should go to the sharpness of our opponents and to several key Arsenal players suffering from World Cup hangovers. As much as I’d like to, I can’t hold Szczesny responsible for those four dropped points.
September 2014 as a similarly disappointing month with another four points lost in draws with Manchester City (2-2) and Tottenham Hotspur (1-1). A poorly defended corner in the 83rd minute cost us two vital points against City. Would Cech have marshalled his defence any better? Against City, Chelsea also dropped two vital points at home because of a goalkeeping error. Cech was not in goal on that day, so we’ll never know if he’d have made a difference.
As for Tottenham, we had 69 per cent possession and 16 shots at goal to Tottenham’s four. Chelsea didn’t face Tottenham at home until March, after Spuds had just played a tiring Europa League match. They won 2-0 against a clearly tired team, so I can’t justify comparing the two games. What is blatantly obvious, though, is a very poor conversion rate cost us points here.
Two more games and another five points go begging. On Oct. 6, we faced Chelsea and lost 2-0. An early injury to Thibaut Courtois, bringing Cech into the game, a denied penalty from a Fabregas handball and an Arsenal defensive error may have changed the scoreline, but let’s be honest — Chelsea were the better team on the day.
Then there was the 2-2 draw against Hull City, where Arsenal scored two goals on two shots. Mohamed Diame’s tug on Mathieu Flamini and the defence’s lack of appeal cost Arsenal the first goal. Szczesny’s fault? No! But would Cech have done better against Hull? In December, Cech made his first Premier League start of the season against Hull, who were unlucky on that day, losing 2-0. Tim Cahill should have seen a second yellow card for diving. But instead, 10 minutes later, Hull were down to 10 men because of a reckless tackle by Tom Huddlestone. That’s two Arsenal points lost and two Chelsea points gained because of luck!
In my opinion, this is where we needed Cech between the sticks. The 2-1 loss at Swansea was preventable. Unforgivably, Szczesny did not move for Swansea’s second goal and definitely cost us two points. Chelsea annihilated Swansea in January with a 5-0 away win — three points for Cech!
After Swansea, our defence gifted Manchester United — with two rookie defenders — their first away win by a score of 2-1. Ouch — that one hurt! Szczesny’s collision with Kieran Gibbs resulted in an own goal, and Arsenal forgetting the first rule of defence allowed Wayne Rooney to steam forward for their second. That was three points lost against a poor United squad. In contrast, United had 70 per cent possession against Chelsea in April; Cech was not in goal, but with the Chelsea bus parked the way it was, it didn’t matter who was in net. Of United’s 15 shots, only two were on target; Courtois only had to make one 2- yard save.
There are two away games to look at in December: a 3-2 loss to Stoke City and a 2-2 draw with Liverpool. Three first-half goals and a late red card for Calum Chambers cost us the game against Stoke. Emi Martinez conceded the first goal after just 19 seconds. That early shocker gave Stoke the momentum they needed to take a 3-0 lead at halftime. Had Chambers stayed on the pitch, Arsenal could have won the game in the second half, but the damage was done. Just two weeks later, Chelsea did to Stoke what Stoke did to Arsenal — stunned their opponent with an early goal. After two minutes, Terry gave them the lead, which led to a 2-0 win. Even though, again, Cech didn’t play, I’m crediting him with three points for this fixture for two reasons — two minutes, and 19 seconds.
Against Liverpool, Arsenal had just 36 per cent possession, but have to feel robbed of two points. After Martin Skrtel was steamrolled by Olivier Giroud, nobody expected him to stay on the pitch, let alone lead his 10-man team to a 97th minute equalizer. Two inexcusably lost points.
The final straw was on New Year’s Day, when Szczesny gifted Southampton both goals in a horrible 2-0 loss. We never looked like winning the game, but if my mother was still alive and in goal, even she could have saved us two points.
That brings the total number of points that goalkeeping likely cost Arsenal in the 2014-2015 campaign to between 10 and 12. Arsenal’s fortunes changed after the Southampton match and, at best, Cech could only possibly have earned us one more point after this match (a 1-0 loss to Swansea City on May 11), but, on the day, in my opinion, that was a fair result.
Twelve points it is, then. That would have been enough to tie with Chelsea for first place.
The final goal difference finished just six goals in Chelsea’s favour. Had those matches I’ve mentioned gone the way I feel they could have, we would have won the league by three or four goals.
Of course, it’s all speculation, and only time will tell if Cech will be enough to win us the league this season.
One other thing to consider is that Arsene Wenger has also challenged his creative players to contribute 10 more goals this season. With a fully fit squad, the likelihood of Theo Walcott being used more as a central striker, along with last season’s goal difference, suggests Arsenal don’t really need another centre forward, but it’s no secret Wenger has had his eye on Karim Benzema for several seasons now.
Are there any more surprises before the transfer window closes? I can’t wait to find out.
— Stuart McKerell