Early today, while many on the east coast of America were just waking up, came the news that Arsenal’s goalkeeper Petr Cech would retire at the conclusion of this year’s Premier League season.
Cech made the abrupt announcement in a text-laden Instagram post, stating that, after 20 years of professional soccer and having won every trophy available, the time is right for him to hang it up, while also promising to fight to help Arsenal win one more trophy while he is still with the club.
While saddening, the news should come as a shock to very few. After the purchase of Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen during the summer transfer window, many figured that the writing was on the wall for the 36 year old Czech shot stopper. That notion seemed to come to fruition when Cech was subbed off just before halftime with a hamstring injury during Arsenal’s home win against Watford in late September. That would be the last time Cech featured for Arsenal in the Premier League, having since been relegated to FA Cup and Europa League duty.
Joining Arsenal from Chelsea in 2015, Cech was brought in to provide some solidity and leadership for an Arsenal side in need of both. Having helped Chelsea win both the Premier League and the Champions League in his 11 years with Arsenal’s cross town rival, his acquisition was met with mixed emotions. On the one hand, he was clearly better than any of Arsenal’s goalkeeping options at the time, but he was already 33 and had fallen out of favor at Chelsea behind Thibaut Courtois, currently at Real Madrid.
Regardless, many heralded the move, as Arsenal were getting a veteran goalkeeper on the cheap who had won titles and a Champions League trophy. Almost immediately, he took over goal keeping duties for David Ospina, who is currently finding success at Napoli, and had been Arsenal’s first team keeper until injury forced him out this season.
Since joining Arsenal, however, the Gunners have unfortunately found themselves in the midst of a several very un-Arsenal-like seasons. After finishing second to Leicester City in the 2015-2016 season, the Gunners have finished outside of the top four for the last two seasons and are at risk of doing the same this campaign. While none of this falls squarely on the shoulders of Cech, he has certainly borne the brunt of criticism at times when he might not have been deserving of it.
Regardless of Arsenal’s current state of affairs, Cech’s legacy will always be one of success. During his club career, he has won the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup, the Community Shield, the League Cup, and the Europa League. He has set the record for most Premier League clean sheets with 202, and has accrued countless honors for his International duty, having been the Czech Republic’s most capped player with 124 appearances. Arguably one of the best shot stoppers of his generation, Cech will have earned a happy retirement. With any luck, he will hoist one last trophy this season before he hangs it up for good.