Bring back Cech: Why Chelsea brought 38-year-old goalkeeper out of retirement

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Kepa Arrizabalaga Edouard Mendy Petr Cech Chelsea GFX
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The poor form of Kepa Arrizabalaga led to the signing of Edouard Mendy and fears of a Covid-19 outbreak mean Chelsea want more goalkeeping cover

Chelsea shocked the football world ahead of their Champions League clash with Sevilla this week. Their 25-man Premier League squad list was released shortly before kick-off and Petr Cech's name was on it.

It has been 18 months since the legendary goalkeeper last played a professional match but the Blues announced that he would provide 'emergency' cover as they pre-empt possible squad issues arising from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

An outbreak among the tight-knit goalkeeping group could be particularly disastrous and this measure is seen as an extra insurance policy, although Chelsea manager Frank Lampard admits that he wouldn't be scared of throwing the previously retired 38-year-old into action.

“It is definitely not done for the romance," Lampard said after his side's 0-0 draw midweek of the decision to call him back. "Pete certainly enjoys the training because that is how he is. I would enjoy training more if my calves didn’t go tight every time I tried to sprint these days.

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"With Pete, I wouldn’t expect it to happen this year. But I do know with the way he is and how fit he is that if we are in crisis times, then you couldn’t ask for much better than having Petr Cech around.

“I don’t expect it, but nobody expected what we have seen in the last six or seven months around the world.”

While rivals Manchester United left out experienced No.2 Sergio Romero and Arsenal omitted Mesut Ozil from their squad lists, Chelsea’s preponderance of young, homegrown players meant the inclusion of Champions League winner Cech was a simple decision.

He has been training alongside the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero and new signing Edouard Mendy since the start of the season in what has been a troubled position for the club.

Petr Cech Chelsea GFX

Cech, alongside with goalkeeping scout Christophe Lollichon, played a key role in bringing Mendy from their former club Rennes in a £22m ($30m) deal.

While his goalkeeping attributes were crucial in concluding a deal, his mental attributes were also flagged following a unique sporting journey that saw him go unemployed for a year while trying to make it in the sport.

"He has the qualities of overcoming difficult moments. It’s something that might help him," Cech said of Mendy after he joined.

"Coming to Chelsea there is a lot of pressure, but when you have had different pressures in your life before like he has when he was unemployed and without a job, you might cope much better with pressure from football."

Lampard is already happy with the Senegal star's impact and has named him the No.1 goalkeeper, with Kepa's role likely to diminish.

"At the minute, yes [he is No.1]," Lampard added.

"I said when he came in it was good for competition. We knew his qualities and he is showing them already. So, as it stands, yes. But that always remains something that is up for grabs, so that is why you have competition at clubs."

Former Czech international Cech also played a role in the club's other transfer business in the off-season, combining football operations with the boardroom in his role as a technical and performance advisor.

Lampard has praised Cech’s work, with his ability to speak five languages (Czech, English, German, Spanish, French) important in concluding a host of deals worth around £220m ($290m) this summer.

"It feels like a real strength in the camp that I can speak to Petr regularly. I can speak with Marina and work in a joined-up way in taking the club forward. All of that will come through the owner; it’s his club. It helps a great deal [having technical and performance advisor Cech]," Lampard said in July.

Cech, a goaltender for the semi-professional ice hockey team Guildford Phoenix and a keen drummer in his spare time, remains in his office job primarily, but his inclusion in the squad list could lead to a truly blockbuster moment in the right – or wrong – circumstance.

"We had that space in the squad and we know this year, it looks like no other because of Covid and isolation so it was a very easy one. Pete still does his day job and he is there if we need him," Lampard added.

It is hoped that Cech will drive up the standard of goalkeeping with his presence amid a run of poor form from the club's record £72m ($95m) signing Kepa that has seen him dropped several times since Lampard took over as manager.

Kepa's decline has been so dramatic that there have been question marks over the first-team goalkeeping coach Hilario, the only goalkeeper to register a worse save percentage ratio than the Spain international did last season in 10 or more Premier League games since 2003-04.

Chelsea's public stance remains that Kepa is being backed by all at the club. The inclusion of Cech however is a bad look for him, but he has got the opportunity to use it as a positive in order to rebuild trust and confidence, both in himself and the wider club.

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