Arsene Wenger has expressed disappointment at not being able to sign Petr Cech 11 years ago when he was at Rennes, before moving to Chelsea. The Frenchman revealed that both teams were interested in the Czech Republic international but Jose Mourinho moved faster in that regard and secured what would turn out to be one of his most astute signings in his illustrious career in the Premier League.
Wenger believes that the 33-year-old can be the missing link that could lead the Gunners to their first league title in over a decade, having already made a bunch of crucial saves over the course of the campaign. The goalkeeper arrived from Chelsea for a £10m ($15m) fee in the summer as their only senior transfer in the window, something which has come to haunt the manager with their current injury crisis.
However, Wenger is ecstatic at the way the transfer has worked out for the north London club at the Emirates, while also bringing back memories from the time when he failed to beat Chelsea to his signature. The Gunners had only won one FA Cup in nine years following the transfer debacle, while losing in the Champions League final against Barcelona, where the goalkeepers used by Arsenal in the game had a major part to play in the setback.
When asked if Cech ranked among his best ever signings, Wenger said, "Yes and sometimes it makes me just think that I missed him when he was at Rennes, and how that could have changed for us if we had signed him in that period.
"There was no work permit issue or anything because he went to Chelsea from Rennes and we could have been quicker maybe on the day than Chelsea, especially because I know his agent very well. He was a goalkeeper as well, Frederic Dobraje, and we were maybe not sharp and quick enough."
A clean sheet for Cech against Manchester City would make him the most successful goalkeeper in the history of the Premier League, overstepping David James, with whom he is joint on 169 clean sheets.
"There is no history of teams winning things without having a great goalkeeper. I'm now 30 years in the job and you learn that the goalkeeper is the most underrated position in football – and maybe the most vital one for winning things," Wenger added.