Petr Cech's clean-sheet record proves he is still Chelsea's No 1

Petr Cech

The Czech goalkeeper has excelled for a decade at Stamford Bridge and is showing no signs of slowing down soon.

As Chelsea beat Hull City 2-0 on Saturday, most of the focus was on Eden Hazard’s fantastic opening goal, but it was somebody at the other end of the pitch that reached a real career landmark.

Petr Cech kept a record 209th Chelsea clean sheet, surpassing the achievement of club legend Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti.

It took Bonetti 19 years at Stamford Bridge, admittedly at a time when the Blues were not always among the elite, to record his 208 shut-outs, whereas Cech has eclipsed his feat in less than a decade.

The Czech Republic stopper has been a model of consistency for Chelsea, and while there is weight to the argument he has not been quite as imposing since the 2006 head injury which has resulted in his trademark headgear, he remains undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers in world football.

The former Rennes 'keeper has been at the heart of Chelsea’s modern era successes, from the back-to-back titles under Jose Mourinho, to Carlo Ancelotti’s thrilling 2010 title-winning side and the 2012 Champions League triumph under Roberto Di Matteo.

In that riveting Munich final, Cech played a pivotal role as he denied Arjen Robben from the penalty spot in extra-time and stopped two further Bayern penalties in the shoot-out as Chelsea conquered Europe for the first time.

From his first shut-out in the 1-0 win over Manchester United in August 2004, to his most recent at the KC Stadium on Saturday, Cech’s gigantic frame and presence in the penalty area has been phenomenal.

The man has 105 international caps to his name, and in goalkeeping terms is arguably not even at his peak yet.

Still 31, Cech will surely be intending to carry on playing at the top level for another decade or so and suggestions that he was a declining force have proven unfounded.

Cech has been ever-present in the Premier League this season as Chelsea have only conceded 19 times in 21 matches and he clearly doesn't have a problem playing behind a back four which often changes personnel.

The big question hanging over Cech in recent years has been that of ‘is he better than Thibaut Courtois?’

The Belgian goalkeeper has been on loan from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid for three seasons since the Blues signed him on a £7.8million deal from Genk.

Courtois has been consistently excellent in La Liga, winning many plaudits as Atletico have become a real force in Spanish football.

He is ten years younger than Cech and clearly Chelsea did intend to bring him in at some point, but Cech’s form has not warranted that happening just yet.

Jose Mourinho will have a big decision to make regarding the pair in the summer, and may even keep both at Stamford Bridge for a while and make them compete to be the club’s first choice.

Courtois may have excelled in La Liga, but Cech’s experience is something that cannot be discounted.

As his clean-sheet record proves, he knows how to stop Premier League strikers.

For Courtois to be able to walk in and take his spot in the Blues’ dressing room would be some achievement, and for those who watch Cech on a regular basis, there is clearly plenty of life in the old dog yet.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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