Petr Cech is set to play the final match of his playing career on Wednesday night, but is there a conflict of interest as the Arsenal goalkeeper prepares to face Chelsea in the Europa League final?
Arsenal know only victory over Chelsea in Baku will secure a Champions League spot next season, and Cech – expected to feature in goal ahead of Bernd Leno – will be looking to bow out in style.
Not only will Cech be aiming for silverware against the club where he first made his name in England, but the 37-year-old will also be facing the club he is expected to return to as the sporting director this summer.
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After the news broke, Cech – who has started all eight knockout matches in the Europa League this season – took to Twitter to state he is fully focused on Arsenal’s cause, but whether he should be selected ahead of Leno has been widely debated going into the showdown.
Emery coy on Cech or Leno
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Emery would not reveal if Cech will play on Wednesday ahead of Leno, but did state he wanted to do “something important” with the former Czech international.
“I respect him a lot,” said Emery. “His career is amazing, first as a person and as a professional goalkeeper.
“I think he deserves trust in him, not because I’m speaking to you here, but because his career says to us he is a gentleman.
“Tomorrow he can or cannot start, I am going to decide, but he deserves respect. It’s going to be his last match tomorrow because he decided to finish his career and I want to do something important with him.
“This was my conversation with him – I want to do something important in the last match of your career, playing or not playing. And really I think how can we not believe in him?”
Seaman: Cech should not play
Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman says his old club should not play Cech in the Europa League final.
Seaman, who wore the gloves for Arsenal for 13 years, told Sky Sports News: “My only thing is that Arsenal really need this; they need this more than Chelsea.
“They need to get into the Champions League and I’m always for playing your strongest team. That means Leno, but I’m sure Cech will play because it’s his last ever game.”
While Seaman is not concerned about a potential conflict of interest for the former Czech Republic international, he admitted he was taken aback by the news that Cech is set to return to Chelsea.
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He said: “I was surprised when I heard it. I was really surprised at the timing of it. I was thinking, ‘Is that Chelsea that’s brought that out, or someone from Arsenal?’
“Nothing’s been confirmed yet, so if Petr plays I wouldn’t be worried at all. He’s a true professional and even if he is going to join Chelsea, that wouldn’t make any difference to his performance.”
Have your say Cudicini: Cech Chelsea’s ‘enemy’ in the final
“It’s a big match for Petr, it’s his last match at the end of an unbelievable career and his last chance to win a trophy,” Cech’s former team-mate Carlo Cudicini told Sky Sports News at Chelsea Foundation’s Disability Showcase.
“Also he will play against a club which has been an important part of his life and career. It’s a huge, huge match for Petr but he is a professional and he is intelligent.
“For sure all of these things will play an emotional part for him but once you are on the pitch, you forget everything and you play to win the trophy – Petr will do that.
“For us (Chelsea) he is obviously an enemy for 90 or 120 minutes, for however long we are on the pitch.”
Where does Cech rank among PL greats?
Cech departs as the Premier League’s all-time leader for clean sheets, having kept 202 in 443 appearances. He is the only goalkeeper to surpass the 200-mark, with David James (169) second.
A total of four Premier League medals for Cech is bettered only by Peter Schmeichel (five), while Edwin van der Sar also won four during his time at Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Van der Sar broke Cech’s record for the longest time without conceding a goal in the Premier League era – the Dutchman’s run of 14 games in 2008-09 eclipsed Cech’s 10-match streak in 2004-05.
However, Cech has kept the most Premier League clean sheets in one season; 24 in 2004-05.
The 40%-plus club
A lesser-known ‘club’, for while Cech cannot boast to be one of the five goalkeepers to have scored a Premier League goal – Schmeichel, Brad Friedel, Paul Robinson, Tim Howard and Asmir Begovic – he can claim to be one of just five goalkeepers to have a clean-sheet record of more than 40% (100+ appearances).
Joining Cech in this exclusive club is former Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who can claim to have the greatest clean-sheet percentage, as well as Van der Sar, Schmeichel and Seaman.
Cudicini (Chelsea, Tottenham) and Manuel Almunia (Arsenal), fall just shy of gaining entry to the club. One more clean sheet for both Cudicini (39.8% of 161 games) and Almunia (39.4% of 109 games) would have been enough to make the cut.
PFA nods – De Gea x 5
The 2018-19 season was the 27th of the Premier League era, and in that time there have been 14 goalkeepers to feature in the PFA Team of the Year, as voted for by their peers.
Goalkeeper PFA Team of the Year appearances (PL era)
- 5 – David de Gea
- 3 – Nigel Martyn, Edwin van der Sar
- 2 – Tim Flowers, David James, Shay Given, Petr Cech, Joe Hart
- 1 – Peter Schmeichel, David Seaman, Fabien Barthez, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, Ederson
Remarkably, both Peter Schmeichel and Seaman featured in the XI just once, with Tim Flowers, David James and Nigel Martyn all making multiple appearances.
Cech’s two appearances came nine seasons apart – 2004-05 and 2013-14 – and in that gap Van der Sar was picked three times and Joe Hart twice.
De Gea first featured in 2012-13, with the Manchester United goalkeeper boasting a record-high five appearances.
So… where does Cech rank?
We have whittled down the list to five title-winning goalkeepers – does Cech top the lot?
Follow the Europa League final on Sky Sports
You can follow all of the action of Chelsea vs Arsenal from Baku on the Sky Sports App and skysports.com with our dedicated Europa League final live blog, which will feature the best build-up, commentary and reaction.