1st Team Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (30), Henrique Hilario (36), Ross Turnbull (27), Thibaut Courtois (20) [on loan at Atletico Madrid], Matej Delac (19) [on loan at Vitoria Guimaraes]
Petr Cech’s excellent performances in Chelsea’s remarkable run to Champions League glory seemed to put paid to the sporting obituaries that were being prematurely penned for him. During that run, he pulled of heroics to keep Benfica, Napoli and Barcelona at bay and followed it up with a brilliant performance in the final against Bayern Munich. Then he went to the European Championship and the concerns resurfaced. The goal he gifted Greece in the group stages gave the detractors more evidence to suggest he’s on a decline.
That’s harsh, but there’s no doubt that Cech is less reliable than he once was. In particular, he seems to be too conscious of putting his head in dangerous places. When a task involves getting down low at the feet of attackers, he seems hesitant, almost as if he fears the prospect of physical contact. It leads to him momentarily losing concentration and it has cost Chelsea goals.
Overall however, he’s still a world-class performer. If he is to return to his best form, he will need to rediscover that fearlessness he showed in his first few years at Chelsea. It’s a lot easier said than done, especially knowing another incident like the one with Stephen Hunt would put his life, let alone career, in jeopardy. Even if he doesn’t reach those heights, he’s good enough to be a solid performer and one of the best keepers in the league.
His successor will be Thibaut Courtois. The young Belgian is learning his trade with Atletico Madrid for another season, but such is his progress the temptation to bring him back to the Bridge must be strong. The 20 year old impressed many with his maturity and consistency in Madrid last season and he is undoubtedly one of the best young keepers in the world. All in all however, playing the long game is the right way to go as the benefit of having him play another season in one of the world’s best leagues will reap dividends in the future.
One player who might take issue with the ‘Courtois as Cech’s successor’ theory is Ross Turnbull. Since arriving from Middlesbrough, he has found his opportunities limited. As he approaches his late 20s, he’ll be eager to establish himself as starter and that’s unlikely to happen at Chelsea. He’s a good keeper, but probably falls just short of the high standard required for league and Champions League contenders.
Henrique Hilario is the experienced back up option. He’s not a player you would want to rely up for too much of the season, but he’s capable of filling in for a couple of games if required. Matej Delac will spend another season out on loan after joining the Pensioners in 2010.