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Petr Cech: 200 Clean Sheets!

As an out-of-form Arsenal side managed to secure a 2-0 lead against a Watford side that offered plenty of threat in attack, things began to look bad when Ainsley Maitland Niles took down an onrushing Roberto Pereyra in the penalty area.Arsenal knew they had made a fine signing when they brought Petr Cech across London from Chelsea in 2015, but the Czech goal keeper had never had any luck when it came to penalties for the Gunners. 15 penalties, 15 goals conceded was his current record - not good.With that being said, he had plenty of pedigree in the Premier League - the most pedigree in fact, as he stood just one game away from reaching an astonishing 200 league clean sheets. The issue in recent weeks however, was how long he was waiting to break this record - Cech's last clean sheet in the league was in the 1-0 victory against Newcastle at the Emirates – 11 games and almost 3 months ago. Was it a mental thing? Had the much-decorated goal keeper began to feel pressure with hitting a double century of games where he had not let the ball hit the net? If that was in fact the case, then surely a penalty was the worst possible outcome as he looked to finally hit 200 clean sheets and dispense with the pressure.It was Troy Deeney who stepped up - the English striker saying before the game that Arsenal lacked "cojones" - and the player who had often netted against the Gunners - including a penalty in the previous fixture at Vicarage Road - probably fancied his chances.A major issue with Arsenal this season has been complacency - generally undeserved complacency as well. Had they to concede a goal, considering the form they are currently in, would it be a surprise to anyone if they were to concede another following it (or possibly more than one)? I'd wager not.Everyone knows what happened. Deeney stepped up, as he has often done before, and hit a fine penalty on target as he has often done before… but Petr Cech stepped up to the mark, as he has often done before and made a fine save on the penalty – as he had not done before in an Arsenal shirt, but he had thankfully broken that duck.Following the saved penalty, the veteran goal keeper and his side managed to hold firm until full time, with Henrik Mkhitaryan capping a fine display with a goal to ensure the Gunners were 3-0 victors and had won their first league game in four.The plaudits must go to the man between the sticks though – Petr Cech, two-hundred clean sheets. There has literally never been a more reliable goal keeper to ply their trade in the Premier League. And he’s way ahead of the competition: Former England goalkeeper David James, who retired in 2014, is second on the list with 169, while Mark Schwarzer is third with 151.Joe Hart, on loan with West Ham, is the highest-placed 'keeper behind Cech currently playing in England's top flight in 11th with 122 clean sheets.Speaking after the match about finally achieving the double century, Cech said"It's an unbelievable personal milestone, obviously. We took only 18 games to get nine clean sheets at the start of the season to reach the 199 and we had to wait 11 games [to get to 200], which is sometimes frustrating."And it was frustrating, but oftentimes things could have been so much worse had it not been for the veteran stopper. In football, it can sometimes be difficult to recall anything longer than what has happened in the short term, especially when that short term has been particularly bad. It is true that in recent weeks Cech has made some errors – it could be said he was at fault for both goals at Brighton – but one thing is for sure, he has been a resilient force of nature in English football and is completely deserving of the plaudits he is receiving.Cech amassed 165 clean sheets at Chelsea, and cemented his place as the greatest goal keeper in the history of their club before making the move to Arsenal in 2015. It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the keeper at the Emirates, but he has managed to pick up some silverware – 2 FA Cup medals, including one against his former employers.He picked up his 35th clean sheet with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, which also happens to be his age – 35. Any age pre-40 is considered young for a goal keeper, so as Arsenal looks to remould itself for next season, he may be one asset that remains in place.During his tenure at the club, he has made some remarkable stops, which when you boil it down, is exactly what you want from your goal keeper. Gilt edge chances from the likes of Christian Eriksen at Spurs or Mohamed Salah at Liverpool were kept out this season almost effortlessly by the man who took only 180 games in the league to reach his first century of clean sheets – incredibly impressive in such a competitive league.It can be easy to question why anyone would want to be a goal keeper. At times it seems to be the most unforgiving position on the pitch; it’s thankless, because if you play well there’s a good chance it will go unnoticed, and if you play poorly, you’re public enemy number one. Nevertheless, Petr Cech has risen to the top of the game in a cruel position. Thinking back on Arsenal’s goal keepers of recent seasons - Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone – the Gunner’s haven’t fully put their faith in a goal keeper for a prolonged period of time since Jens Lehmann. That’s all changed with Cech, as the former Czech captain looks to reach the next milestone in his storied career. Some more silverware at Arsenal? 250 clean sheets? With Cech, you wouldn’t rule anything out.