In the latest instalment of a new regular column with former goalkeeping great Petr Cech, our current technical and performance advisor shares his insight on what helps goalkeepers adapt quickly to life at Chelsea and why team togetherness is proving so important.
With Edouard Mendy busier than usual in recent matches, we explore the theme of what makes a good goalkeeping performance and how important concentration can be when you’re guarding the goal at a big club.
There is also some reflection on Kepa Arrizabalaga’s recent penalty shoot-out appointment in the UEFA Super Cup, as well as why retaining the Champions League is so difficult…
Generally when you play for a top club that dominates possession and dominates the game then you don’t end up with too many saves. The job is really about concentration, being focused and in the game, and really that’s the hard part because you might have one shot to save but if it’s a big chance then it can make the difference between getting a point or winning and losing. This is the hardest part for a goalkeeper in a top club.
There are obviously games during the season where the team might struggle a little bit and you might end up with 10 saves so you need to be ready for that as well. It’s the combination of being prepared for any type of game and I think what helps with this is playing for the national team.
My pathway went through Sparta Prague where we were the best team in the league so we were expected to win and dominate. My job there was pretty much the same as I had at Chelsea, which was something that prepared me nicely, as well as the experience of coming from France where the league is quite physical.
When I started playing for the Czech Republic in the early 2000s, our team was really top so it was similar to playing for Chelsea and that prepared me well. It is the same for Edou because he plays for Senegal, one of the best teams in Africa that plays to win every game. It’s an important experience to have, playing in a team where you have a lot to do and also playing in a team where it’s the opposite.
That’s probably why he was so prepared when he arrived and why he didn’t take much time to adapt because for Rennes the team was under pressure a lot. If you come from a team where you are constantly busy to a top team where you have not much to do but you have more responsibility and more pressure then it can be challenging.
However, for both Kepa and Edou, playing for the national team actually prepared them for that, which is a really good advantage. When you have experience of working at both ends of the spectrum, you can adapt much quicker and more easily.
We had a difficult pre-season with lots of players not fully fit so the manager had a bit of work to do but it just showed how strong the group is. Everybody who was available and got their chance did a great job and that includes the goalkeepers playing their part as well.
In the Super Cup, Edou did his job during the game and then Kepa during the shoot-out. This is something that we have to really appreciate because it just shows the strong unity within the team, that people respect decisions like that from the manager.
Edou was aware of the plan and he supported it with no hesitation, which just shows that the team comes first and then the players are really happy to win things together with everybody playing their part.
It was a huge responsibility for everybody to make the decision, as well as the players stepping in, because it’s a big moment of the game. The manager had the idea since a long time ago so we talked about it and the team was ready for it. It always helps when people are not discovering a new situation but they know the plan and it just shows the manager trusts every single member of the team the same way and that the team is strong together.
It’s always difficult for everybody to play because it’s a very competitive team with fantastic players in every position, including goalkeepers, so you might not play every game as a player but it still doesn’t mean you are less important than everybody else.
The Super Cup and the situation with the shoot-out proved that, as well as the start of the season where some people were coming late and were missing but the others stepped up. It’s the job of the whole squad to have a good start to the season and of course that’s been very positive for us.
It is really difficult to retain the Champions League because you need an element of everything going right and you need to be lucky as well. For Real Madrid to win it three times in a row, that was absolutely exceptional and you have to really take your hat off to a team for doing that because it’s a title that is really so hard to retain.
When you come in as a champions, everybody has extra pressure and that adds to the complexity of the whole thing. You need everything to go right, no unlucky games or bad decisions or away goals against you.
You are playing the best teams in Europe throughout the competition and everybody has the same motivation and quality to go through. That is what it makes it so unique and so difficult but we started well with a good win against a tough opponent in Zenit St Petersburg so now we keep building from here.