Arsenal in safer hands

Arsenal in safer hands
Arsene Wenger (right) is not ruling out any other new signings – as long as they can further strengthen the team – while Per Mertesacker insists that the Gunners must get off to a good start, unlike last season.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Arsenal's central defender Per Mertesacker has had a front-row seat to his club's goalkeeping merry-go-round since joining the club back in 2011.

He has seen the likes of Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski come and go, and witnessed the struggle between Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina last season.

But all that is set to be a thing of the past, following the £10 million (S$21 million) signing of Petr Cech from English Premier League (EPL) rivals Chelsea.

Cech, who won the EPL title four times with the Blues, is seen as a permanent fix to the Gunners' problem with the gloved ones, one which critics say has not been addressed since the departure of German great Jens Lehmann in 2008.

Mertesacker is already impressed with Cech. He said: "From day one, you (can feel) his presence.

"He's the type that communicates well on and off the pitch, he speaks several languages and I think he can add that extra something to what we have now.

"There are many doubters out there but we feel that we are even stronger with Petr Cech."

Although Cech looks set to be the first choice, Szczesny, 25, said he is looking forward to the challenge.

Said the Pole: "I don't need an indication (on who's No. 1). I fight for my place no matter what.

"Obviously, Petr is a fantastic goalkeeper, one of the best in the Premier League. That's a massive challenge for me but I'd love to challenge him, learn from him, and I'm sure he will help me become a better goalkeeper as well."

Even with his future in doubt, Szczesny wants to spend his entire career with the Gunners, saying: "Look, I moved to London as a 16-year-old kid for a reason. I have a connection with the club, and if I could have one wish, I want to stay here for the rest of my career."

Manager Arsene Wenger said it was a difficult decision to sign Cech as he already has Szczesny and Ospina, 26. But he hopes the 33-year-old's arrival will help improve the team's defensive record and inspire the younger players.

The Frenchman said: "Last season, in the last 19 games, we conceded 13 goals... we want to maintain and stabilise that and, if possible, improve on that... (also) I believe he can contribute to our 'keepers who are still young."

Asked if more signings are in the pipeline, Wenger replied: "I don't close the door when it comes to strengthening the squad.

"We believe we have the quality, it's now (about ) how much we can be stronger together."

Vice-captain Mertesacker is optimistic the Gunners can improve on last season's third-place finish.

"We've got high expectations for ourselves... (we want to) compete in the Premier League from the start, not drop too many points like we did last season," he said.

"For the Champions League, we want to stay as long as possible in the competition.

"Last season, we were favourites against Monaco (in the round of 16) and then we had one bad game and were out of the competition.

"We're not going to allow ourselves (to do that) again."

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 15, 2015.
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