Petr Cech stands tall as the last line of the Chelsea FC defence and with every game that he remains undefeated his reputation soars still higher. In ten outings for the London team the goalkeeper has let in just two goals.
It has been a more than satisfactory start to his English career for a player who was not even sure he would be José Mourinho's first choice at the start of the campaign. Such was the form last season of Carlo Cudicini that many questioned Chelsea's need for a new goalkeeper. Those who queried the €10.3m summer purchase from Stade Rennais FC are not dissenting now. Cech has proved beyond doubt his right to a first-team place at Stamford Bridge.
What has been particularly impressive has been the high level of concentration the Czech international has managed to summon while remaining unemployed for large stretches of matches. One fine plunging save late in Sunday's game with Liverpool FC was a perfect illustration as the visitors threatened to nullify the only goal Chelsea had to show for an afternoon when they had largely dominated without being able to convert their chances.
That ability to stay focused while the ball spends considerable time at the other end of the field is an attribute that all who play in goal for the leading sides must possess. "Chelsea are a great team and we like to attack for all the game," Cech said. "For a goalkeeper that presents a problem because you might have only one or two saves to make during a game and you have to ensure you are on top of your game and can make those saves."
For a 22-year-old he has already packed in a lot. His performances during UEFA EURO 2004™ earned a place in the official team of the tournament. Shortly after joining AC Sparta Praha he set a national record by going 855 minutes without conceding a goal. While not quite being able to match that with Chelsea he has reached double figures in appearances and has still to taste defeat.
That Chelsea have maintained their unbeaten run with a new manager and with several other new faces speaks volumes for all concerned. Cech says Mourinho must take a lot of the credit. "His style is very different from other managers and he makes training fun," he said. "
We are working with the ball the whole time and that makes it more enjoyable for the players. I think that is one of the reasons we are so happy to be at Chelsea working with him. To win the UEFA Cup and then the Champions League in two years [with FC Porto] is a tremendous achievement."
Maybe part of Mourinho's success is that he can also strip away any emotion surrounding a particular fixture. The perfect example is the Matchday 2 confrontation with the club he led to those back-to-back European triumphs before taking over at Chelsea. With memories still fresh of his Porto achievements it could have been an awkward assignment for Mourinho. Somehow he was able to treat it as just another game though the feeling afterwards as he reflected on Chelsea's 3-1 victory must have been anything but ordinary.
"It is not easy to see any emotion with him, he hides his feelings very well," said Cech of the manager who has made a big impression on Chelsea's players. "Even before the Porto game there did not seem to be any difference in his attitude. He badly wants to win every game and that attitude rubs off on the players."
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