After Petr Cech’s opening-day blunders proved so costly for Arsenal, the veteran goalkeeper demonstrated against Liverpool on Monday why he will be an asset rather than a liability for his new team.
A 0-0 draw at home might seem frustrating for a side longing to end a 12-year wait for a Premier League title but without Cech’s assured presence in goal it could have been back-to-back home losses at the start of the season for the first time in 66 years at Arsenal.
A daring block at the feet of Christian Benteke was followed by Philippe Coutinho’s strike being tipped onto the post by Cech making the slightest of touches at full stretch.
With a fragile, makeshift defense in front of him, Cech was required to compensate for those vulnerabilities — rather than gifting goals as he did two weeks ago against West Ham in his first league game since the $17-million switch across London from Chelsea.
“When you start with a new club and everything goes wrong, you need to bounce back and this is what I tried to do,” Cech said, reflecting on that 2-0 loss to West Ham. “Today was one those games where I was in the right place at the right times.”
But with the Gunners so ineffective up front, the draw left them with four points from a possible nine at the start of the season, far from the form that will see them threaten to win the title for the first time since 2004.
It was Arsenal’s first clean sheet of the season, but a third for Liverpool. Although Liverpool has seven points, the irritation for the visitors was their inability to make it three wins out of three as they chase a return to the Champions League by finishing in the top four.
The opportunity was there, with injuries denying Arsenal its first-choice center back partnership of Per Mertesacker (illness) and Laurent (back). In came Calum Chambers, whose hesitancy compounded the collective unease in Arsenal’s defense, alongside Gabriel.
“They didn’t have the experience to play together,” Wenger said. “But we didn’t concede and Petr Cech saved us two or three times in the first half.”
Five minutes before half time, Benteke was primed to score when Roberto Firmino — making his first start for Liverpool — squared the ball to the Belgium striker. But Cech was at full stretch on the ground to block a tap-in from Benteke.
A finer save followed before half time. Coutinho befuddled Hector Bellerin on the left flank, twisting around the defender, before flashing a shot that Cech diverted onto the post.
The quality off the saves was matched by counterpart Simon Mignolet with around 20 minutes to go, palming away Olivier Giroud’s strike with his right hand from point-blank range.
The referee had saved Liverpool in the opening ten minutes.
A week after Liverpool was the beneficiary of an offside being missed when Benteke scored the winner against Bournemouth, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey wrongly had a goal ruled out for offside after he met a precise throughball from Santi Cazorla.
What pleased Liverpool manager Rodgers was his team’s solid defending preventing Arsenal scoring for a second successive home game while providing a threat going forward.
“Defensive organization will be the platform for us with all our creative flair,” Rodgers said. “We kept a really good clean sheet but disappointed we didn’t get the win.”
In May, 13 points separated third-place Arsenal from Arsenal in sixth. The gulf at the start of the new season does not seem as vast, although both teams seem far from challenging Manchester City’s status as early title favorites.