No wonder Petr Cech wanted to retire. Why would he put himself through the misery of another season playing with an Arsenal defence that continually lets him down?
Too often since leaving Chelsea for Arsenal in 2015, Cech’s been horribly exposed by a backline that’s been in perpetual disarray for as long as anyone connected with the club cares to remember.
Once more, on the legendary goalkeeper’s final ever appearance as a professional footballer, he was let down again.
Petr Cech endured a tough time on the night of his final game as an Arsenal goalkeeper
Cech was beaten four times by Chelsea’s rampant attack in the Europa League final
He wasn’t helped by a defence that was poor at organising itself at the Olympic Stadium
Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of Wednesday night for Cech is that Arsenal’s woeful defence is no longer his problem.
First came Laurent Koscielny’s tame attempts to shackle Olivier Giroud, allowing the former Arsenal striker to plant his diving header past the 37-year-old.
The less said about how Pedro was allowed the freedom of the penalty area to fire home Chelsea’s second or how Ainsley Maitland-Niles charged into the back of Giroud to concede the penalty Eden Hazard duly converted the better.
It is not surprising that Cech has decided to call time on his career at the end of this season
Cech deserved far better than this. He certainly didn’t deserve to concede four on his farewell appearance.
And to think, he kept his team in the game in the first half with two excellent saves – his brilliant one-handed stop to deny Giroud in the 39th minute, in particular, rekindling memories of Cech in his absolute pomp.
The stop should have served to end any lingering doubts over Cech’s integrity heading into the Europa League final – though he did that in his own unyielding style before the game.
‘You can have a great connection with the club, but when you play all you want is to win, there are no friends on the pitch,’ said the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Cech was left exposed by his defence as Chelsea cut through Arsenal with so much ease
Split loyalties? No chance. This is Petr Cech we’re talking about. A serial winner – one of the fiercest competitors to have graced English football during the Premier League era.
It’s just a shame he’s had to spend the final years of his career surrounded by players who simply don’t possess his own will to win.
Fourteen major trophies, more individual honours than he knows what to do with, suggestions Cech shouldn’t have played due to any affinity he holds for Chelsea were truly absurd.
His stop to deny Giroud proof that despite the colour blue running through his veins – his heart was red – and only red – on Wedesday.
And that’s how we should remember Cech, at his jaw-dropping best.
Chelsea left back Marcos Alonso shakes hands with Cech at the full-time whistle in Baku
Cech could have continued playing at the Emirates or elsewhere – even after announcing his retirement he is understood to have turned down numerous offers to prolong his career.
But Cech doesn’t want to sully his legacy, and why should he? Staying at Arsenal would certainly have left him at risk of doing exactly that.
Chest puffed out with gloves in hand, Cech looked a picture of tranquility as he entered the Olympic Stadium here in Baku.
By the end, though, he couldn’t wait to hear the final whistle. But when the agony of Wednesday’s disappointment subsides he has one hell of a career to look back on.
Speaking to Sportsmail earlier this month, Cech confessed he didn’t want to reflect on what had gone before. There was too much on the horizon, the opportunity to go out a winner here in Baku.
But when the dust settles from Wednesday’s loss; you hope Cech finds the time to look back at what he’s achieved. That will take a while, of course.
Cech, aged 37, is now expected to take up the role as Chelsea’s new director of football
From the horrific collision with Stephen Hunt that left us all fearing the worst to that night in Munich, Cech’s been there and got the T-shirt.
It was entirely fitting the Czech’s final appearance as a professional came in a major European final. It’s what he’s done his entire career – compete at the top.
So what next for one of the greatest goalkeeper’s to have ever graced the English game? He’ll stay in football, for sure.
Chelsea want him back in a technical capacity, Jose Mourinho would still maintain Chelsea shouldn’t have let him leave in the first place.
Arsenal have also offered Cech the opportunity to stay at the Emirates. But surely the lure of returning back to his spiritual home will be too much to resist.
All that will come out in the wash over the next few days. Unfortunately for Cech, it’ll take more than a few days to overcome this crushing loss.