Petr Cech says must-win games bring the best out of Arsenal and that his teammates have too often paid the price for taking their foot off the gas when the pressure hasn’t been so high.
Cech is expected to start for the Gunners against his old club in what will be his final appearance as a player. According to various sources, the 37-year-old will then return to Stamford Bridge in a sporting director position. Whether such rumours influence Unai Emery’s selection remains to be seen, although he does have first choice keeper Bernd Leno waiting in the wings.
There’s no suggestion that Cech is anything other than completely determined to beat the Blues and he’s eager for everyone in the squad to realise the magnitude of the Europa League final because it’s traditionally been the best way to get a decent performance out of them.
“I feel that when Arsenal need to win, we win,” he told the Evening Standard. “You go to Athens in the last Champions League group game [of 2015] needing to win 2-0 and you win 3-0. No matter where, we win, because that fire was right behind us as we had to really win. The pressure was what was pushing us.
“I completely disagree with people who say, ‘When you pressure comes, [you don’t win]’. No. I think we lose points where there is not enough pressure. So, we went to Everton [on April 7]. You know you win, you go third… you lose, you stay fourth. We lost. That week with Wolves [losing at Molineux, either side of defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester], it was the same situation.
“There was always a cushion, there was always, ‘It is not such a disaster’. We should probably create more pressure on everybody because that would give people more to think about.
“We went to Napoli [in the quarter-finals] and everybody says, ‘Oh, you are rubbish away, they are brilliant at home’. We win 2-0, and then you go, ‘How do you explain that?’ If you are under pressure and you can’t perform, you lose that game. But we didn’t because the pressure was so high. You know you lose, you are out. You lose 3-1 at Rennes [in the last 16, first leg], you have to win at home: you win. The semi-final? We win. So, the examples are there.”
You might easily suggest that missing the opportunity to beat Palace and Brighton at home and the defeats to Everton, Wolves and Leicester were all examples of us fluffing our lines when the pressure was cranked up. But we kind of see what Petr means.