Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cech Grabs Glory with Both Hands - but Axe Looms for Almunia

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cech Grabs Glory with Both Hands - but Axe Looms for Almunia

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT HUGHES

CHELSEA'S lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premiership may feel like a chasm consisting of two places, 13 points and 25 goals, but the real difference between the two sides lies between their posts, writes Matt Hughes.

The 2004/05 season will be remembered as a tale of two goalkeepers - plus three more who have made crucial contributions at the wrong moments. Never can the importance of a No1 have been more clearly demonstrated than in the matches played in the middle of this week. While Manuel Almunia ran around like a man possessed as Arsenal slumped to a 4-2 defeat to Manchester United, Petr Cech spared Chelsea's blushes at Blackburn, making a string of superb saves to record his eighth straight clean sheet. For all the talent and wealth at Jose Mourinho's disposal, Cech is surely his greatest asset.

Almunia, on the other hand, has been an accident waiting to happen for some time. The 28-year-old may be a nice bloke and an excellent shot-stopper but lacks the mental strength and decision-making skills to be a top-class goalkeeper. Tuesday's error-strewn performance against Manchester United surely represents his nadir.

Arsene Wenger may have reached the same conclusion because he is set to drop him tomorrow against Aston Villa and recall Jens Lehmann, despite his stormy relationship with the German. …

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