Ever since Petr Cech was entrusted to man the posts, there has never been a doubt about who the first choice goalkeeper would be. However, the same cannot be said of the team’s back-up goalkeepers.
Whilst Cech provides stability on the forefront, the few times he gets excluded from the starting line-up due to injury and suspension, the big question of a replacement crops up.
The reason isn’t far-fetched either. During the 2005/2006 season, Cech had a nasty head injury colliding with (then) Reading’s Hunt. Cudicini (who used to be the first choice until Cech emerged) replaced him but soon got injured too and we were left with only one keeper in Hilario. We didn’t know much about him then but after a couple of games saw him make a joke of goalkeeping, and we only wished for the speedy recovery of our injured goalies.
And to be honest, there’s not been much improvement with Chelsea’s stand-in goalies since Hilario’s comedic demonstrations then. Turnbull was brought in free in 2010 in the bid to get a decent back-up for Cech, but we were only left wondering who was the more comical goalkeeper between the two.
However, it appears the club is sick and tired of the whole charade. Despite acquiring the highly rated Belgian stopper, Thibaut Courtois(though still on loan at Atletico Madrid), Mark Schwarzer was also brought in from Fulham whilst surprisingly, Hilario got a 1-year contract renewal.
These moves indicate Chelsea’s promptness to redress the ineptitude of the back-up dilemma or at least, provide adequate cover for the team.
Having said that, what should we expect from the four goalies? What individual features would they bring on to the team and how would they enhance the performance of the team?
Cech has been at Chelsea for 9yrs now and within that period, he has grown to become a pillar, not only between the poles but also, along with Terry, Lampard, Cole, form the foundation upon which the team was placed.
During Mourinho’s first stint at the club, his team was moulded around Cech, Terry, Carvalho, Cole, Lampard, Essien, Drogba, whom he termed ‘the untouchables’. Inspite of the enormous transfer deals that’s gone through the club in the past 7yrs, it’s astonishing to know that five of these ‘untouchables’ are still with the club.
However the emergence of a newly bred team bustling with spirited youths has put paid to the re-emergence of the untouchables, most of whom are declining on their peak. Now, if there’s a player who’d technically remain untouchable in the fledgling team, it’d be the veteran – Petr Cech.
Although goalkeeping is not as competitive as other positions in a squad, you cannot escape the fact that Petr Cech has been the first choice goalkeeper in Chelsea for 9yrs, so much so that he came through a life-threatening head injury to resume keeping the goal for us, is a testament of how extremely valuable he is for the club.
You hardly find a fault with his goalkeeping. Okay, maybe he tends to rush out from goal faster than expected when dealing with aerial balls, but as far as goalkeeping goes, that’s just about the only blemish to his game. For me, Cech remains, unarguably, one of the five best goalies in the world. If you care to dig for facts and stats, the records speak volumes for him.
Yet, above his years of experience and goalkeeping values, Cech would be playing a more principal role in the remodelling of the side and who best to fill the role than the veteran keeper?
When Chelsea announced the signing of Fulham goalkeepers Mark Schwarzer, it came as a bit of surprise to us. What could possibly be the motive behind Schwarzer’s acquisition?
Superficially, it appears fatuous to have acquired a 40-year-old goalkeeper(even if free) to provide cover for the first choice despite the presence of a younger goalie in the academy, raring to go.
Taking an in-depth view of the ploy however, you’d see the reasoning behind the move. But for his stellar display on loan at Atletico Madrid, Thibaut Courtois would have been Cech’s deputy. His astonishing form on loan indicated that Courtois would be a wasted talent on the bench. As a result, his loan stay with Madrid was extended a year further. Consequently, we were left with the unreliable back-up – Hilario and the relatively unproven youngster – Blackman.
Reason why the club decided to employ the services of a much tested and proven keeper in Mark Schwarzer. Mark is one of the seasoned goalies in England’s top division and with that, a sense of assurance and placidness arrives in the team. Schwarzer wouldn’t be staying for long, but for the time being, he would come in handy whenever he’s called upon to give cover. And taking all that into consideration (bar his howler against Roma), I think the club has made a clever decision.
Jamal Blackman started his career in Chelsea with the Under-13 and from thereon, he has been an integral member of the youth set-up. He has partaken in the club’s Youth, Reserve and Under-21 set-up. He also represented England at the Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level.
Having acquired that vast wealth of experience at the grade levels, the time is ripe for Blackman to start playing a role with the first team. Obviously, he would be coming as the 3rd choice in the goalkeeping section with Schwarzer and Cech coming as 2nd and 1st choice respectively. However, the little games he gets could just be the opportunity he needs to hog the limelight.
Though, it would have been preferrable if he was the direct understudy to Cech as he’d get more game time from there yet, the rare games he gets would be a test of his capability to stand-in for Cech and ultimately, move a step closer to being Chelsea’s No. 1.
I can’t, for the life of me, fathom how Hilario managed to bag a year extension to his contract. Yes, Hilario’s been a loyal servant to the club and has dutifully gone about his job without any fuss but I felt Hilario should have been released with the likes of Turnbull, Malouda et al.
I don’t see him playing any significant role in the team and I’d be surprised if he manages to get as little as 4 games during the season. I’d consider him as our emergency goalie and for me, he would be the most irrelevant player in the squad.