Unai Emery admits he has been surprised by the criticism aimed at Petr Cech in recent weeks as the Arsenal goalkeeper put in a man of the match performance in today’s Premier League win over Everton.
Second-half strikes from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were enough for the Gunners to secure a 2-0 victory, their fourth in a row in the league and a first clean sheet of the Emery era.
Everton will feel hard done by to leave the Emirates Stadium with nothing to show for a decent performance – and not only because Aubameyang’s goal came from an offside position.
The visitors dominated the first half, with Cech denying the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Lucas Digne and Richarlison – who looked sharp on his return from suspension.
Cech, 36, has captained Arsenal in all of their Premier League games since Emery took charge but has not been without his critics as he adapts to playing the ball out from the back.
He has kept summer signing Bernd Leno on the bench – except for Thursday’s Europa League win over Vorskla Poltava – and Emery is pleased with his goalkeeping options.
“I’m a little surprised because there have been a lot of questions over Cech,” Emery said after the win.
“In pre-season and also in the first matches with us, he’s played with good performances. Bernd Leno will also improve with us and learn about this competition here.
“For him, he’s also doing very well and benefiting from working every day with a goalkeeper like Petr Cech. He’s learning from him, giving him experience and he’s watching him in games like today.
“Leno is a younger goalkeeper and he is coming here with a big future, but now, it’s a very competitive position. Petr Cech is very important for us.”
“Petr has big experience and a big quality. He’s started the season very well and we think he’s giving us the performance we want. Today he showed us that he’s very good and continuing to work hard with this spirit every day.”
Lacazette opened the scoring with a well-taken strike, three minutes before Aubameyang’s contentious tap-in secured the win.
But Emery revealed he was preparing to remove Lacazette in the moments leading up to his goal – with Alex Iwobi stripped and ready to replace the France striker.
Asked if he was intending to substitute Lacazette, the Arsenal head coach replied: “I don’t think it’s important, but maybe yes! Football is like that.
“We needed to change something in this moment to give us another individual quality on the pitch. Then we scored the goal and I decided to stop it and think again about who we need next.”
While Arsenal continue to build under Emery, Marco Silva’s start to life at Goodison Park remains a slow one.
Everton have just one league win to their name under the Portuguese – who was left bemoaning the decision not to rule out Aubameyang’s effort following a strong display from the Toffees.
“It is a disappointing result and didn’t reflect the performances of the two teams – but that is football,” he said.
“It was really frustrating. We had just one player in our box and it was three against one and it was clear where our defender was and where the goalscorer was.
“It was a mistake by the assistant referee but we can all make mistakes. That made it really hard for us.
“VAR would help but I understand they are trying to find the best way to introduce it maybe by next season.”