Football

Wenger hails Cech as the 'camera in his team'

Cech's importance to Arsenal 
cannot be measured, says Wenger

ARSENAL v CHELSEA

(Tonight, 11.55pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & 
StarHub TV Ch 227)

Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a picture perfect performance from goalkeeper Petr Cech when he comes up against former club Chelsea tonight.

Cech, 33, moved to Arsenal from Stamford Bridge in the summer having spent 11 hugely successful years with the Blues and Wenger now describes him as a "camera behind the team".

The Gunners boss made Cech's signature a priority and the Czech Republic international was the only addition to his ranks before the start of the season.

Since his arrival, Cech has claimed the record for Premier League clean sheets and has played a major role in guiding Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have endured a woeful defence of their title and sit 19 points behind their London rivals heading into tonight's clash at the Emirates Stadium and Wenger feels his defence has benefited from having such an experienced campaigner shoring them up.

"He has a calming presence, he communicates well, anticipates well, sees what is coming," he said.

"He is a kind of coach. The best position to be a coach is the goalkeeper - because he doesn't move, and he sees everything. He is the camera behind the team."

Wenger admits there were a few question marks over whether Cech would be up to the task of becoming Arsenal's No. 1 after a season warming the bench with the Blues, but he insists any doubts were soon removed.

"I didn't know what kind of shape he was in physically because he hadn't played," he said.

"When I met him, I was quickly reassured of his desire to do well and his motivation. I didn't know how much he could still produce physically.

"He hadn't played and was battling a drop in physical aptitude. But I knew the potential was exceptional having played against him 11 years in the Premier League. It was a question of 'physically, can he still do it?'."

Chelsea skipper John Terry said the signing of Cech would net Arsenal at least 12 extra points this season and, while Wenger refused to quantify his significance, he admitted his addition to the squad was key.

"You cannot measure it," he said when asked if Cech could prove to be worth 12 to 15 points.

"You cannot measure that. But you know one thing: you need a top-class goalkeeper. I have said many times that it is an underrated position. And you need a top-class goalkeeper to do well."

HIGHLY-RATED

Wenger has struggled for a commanding, first-choice goalkeeper since Jens Lehmann's retirement but had two goalkeepers on his books before Cech's arrival who he rates highly.

Wojciech Szczesny has been farmed out on loan to Roma while David Ospina has had to settle for the job of understudy for much of the season - especially after a terrible error in Arsenal's 3-2 Champions League defeat at home by Olympiakos.

Wenger revealed he had to contemplate Cech's signing because of how highly he regards Ospina but said he would have been wrong not to grasp the opportunity.

"Look, it was a very, very difficult decision for me because I highly rate Ospina," he added.

"I have a high opinion of him. Ospina is a goalkeeper who, in my opinion, is underrated, especially in England.

"But (signing Cech) was maybe one of the few opportunities to say, 'Okay, this is obvious'. It was more to say, 'If I don't do this, it would have been a mistake I think'." - PA Sport.

Hiddink confident proud record against Arsenal will continue

Interim boss Guus Hiddink is optimistic Chelsea can maintain their impressive hold on Arsenal, despite the contrasting Premier League fortunes of the sides this season.

As the Gunners battle for the title, Chelsea entered the weekend's fixtures languishing in 14th place, 19 points behind tonight's derby opponents.

Jose Mourinho was Arsene Wenger's nemesis - the Frenchman's only win in 15 contests with the Portuguese came in last August's Community Shield - and the Gunners have not won a Premier League clash between the sides in eight attempts, since October 2011.

"I'm convinced my team on Sunday will give their utmost to get results which have been achieved in the recent past," Hiddink said.

"It's a bit different to the past, of course. I'm not a person who likes to deny the facts.

"Look at the statistics. We're closer to that (relegation) line than we are to the Champions League positions.

"It doesn't mean we're looking down. We have to look up."

Hiddink took confidence from Chelsea's last-gasp draw with Everton, when John Terry's controversial goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time secured a point last Saturday.

"I was very happy with the reaction of the team," he added.

"It was a narrow escape, but it was good to see that a team, in any minute or any second, even in the dying seconds, didn't want to surrender too easily."

Hiddink, who has presided over a six-match unbeaten run, but only two wins, knows such a result can provide a large fillip for a side whose confidence has plummeted this season.

"Every win (can)," said Hiddink, who succeeded Mourinho last month. "Everyone knows where we were in December. So far we are unbeaten on one hand; on the other hand, we cannot be fully satisfied with all the results.

"Being unbeaten means we have to make the next step and not drop back into inconsistency. One day good or half a game good and another day less consistent. That's where we have to work.

"I see the players working already with a lot of ambition, but also with confidence. I hope and think we will see another very attractive game."

BOOST

Chelsea's chances could be significantly boosted by the availability of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Both are in contention after recovering from injuries. Costa suffered a bruised shin against Everton and Hazard has missed the last three games with a groin injury.

Meanwhile, a steward was sacked by Chelsea for calling former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas a "snake".

Video of the Stamford Bridge incident, which took place earlier this season, emerged on Friday and Chelsea confirmed action had been taken.

"You're a snake, you're Arsenal," the steward said to the Spain midfielder in the video which has been widely shared on social network sites. 
- PA Sport.

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