Petr Cech is the Premier League's greatest goalkeeper of all time
Unknown forces seemed to be working against Petr Cech as he searched for his 200th Premier League clean sheet. The 35-year-old had become the subject of ridicule from fans, pundits and neutrals alike in recent times. However, he rolled back the years during Arsenal's latest league clash, delivering a masterclass against Watford. With the Gunners leading 2-0, Cech showed his quality to keep out Troy Deeney's spot kick. It was his first penalty save since moving to the Emirates in summer 2015.
Now in his 15th year in English football, Cech is the only goalkeeper to keep 200 clean sheets in Premier League history. He has been compared to Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, but the Arsenal shot-stopper has surpassed the two Manchester United legends. His longevity and consistency are unrivalled.
In his first season at Chelsea in 2004/05, Cech played an integral role to help the Blues secure the Premier League title. Over 38 games, he conceded only 15 goals, keeping 24 clean sheets. His formidable presence and outstanding reflexes were second to none. After a stellar campaign at Stamford Bridge, as well as earning Czech Republic's number one jersey, he was recognised as an elite shot-stopper.
Although Cech remained a world-class goalkeeper while at Chelsea, suffering a horrendous head injury against Reading in 2006 saw his confidence and bravery diminish. His gradual decline has continued in between the sticks at Arsenal. Yet, the former Czech international is still capable of winning his team points. He also refuses to hide from bad performances, as highlighted by his self-criticism after the 2-1 loss to Brighton earlier this month.
Cech took to Twitter to criticize his own display, showing that he isn’t content with mediocrity.
Since switching West for North London, Cech has won the Premier League's Golden Glove, the award for the most clean-sheets in a season. Arsenal's defence often comes under heavy scrutiny, yet their regular keeper is far from finished.
Cech's achievements are exceptional. The nearest challenger to his Premier League clean sheet record is David James, whose last game came in 2009/10. The Englishman had 169 shutouts throughout his spell in the English top-flight.
Despite leaving Chelsea after falling behind Thibaut Courtois in the pecking order, Cech's Stamford Bridge legacy will stand the test of time. He was a crucial component during the 2012 Champions League triumph, saving the Blues with gravity-defying heroics in the latter stages.
While Van Der Sar and Schmeichel are both undoubtedly goalkeeping greats, Cech changed the dynamics like no other. He registered 100 clean sheets in only 180 matches, the quickest ever to reach that milestone. He has also won four Premier League titles, as well as earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year on four occasions. Few will forget his ability to pull off remarkable saves game after game.
Although the art of goalkeeping has evolved in recent years, with playing out from the back becoming increasingly important, Cech remains among the best in his position. Claiming 200 clean sheets proves he's above every Premier League goal custodian in history. Until his record is broken, Petr Cech is number one.