Mathieu Flamini has admitted he was surprised to see Petr Cech join Arsenal and wants his team-mates to take full advantage of Chelsea's generosity.
Roman Abramovich personally sanctioned the £10million deal earlier this summer; a decision that was quickly commended by Jose Mourinho. Still considered a world-class performer, Cech has been backed to boost Arsenal's Premier League title challenge considerably next season.
Cech had served Chelsea for ten glory-ridden years before Thibaut Courtois shoved him to the bench last summer. Despite being second choice for the entirety of last season, the 33-year-old remained professional right to the very end.
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Having told the club that he wanted to leave, but did not want to uproot his family from their London life, Arsenal seemed like the only viable option. Allowing him to join a direct rival was a decision inspired by compassion rather than football, leaving Flamini's noticeable eyebrows raised.
“I was surprised by Mourinho because he really doesn't do that,” the Arsenal star told reporters. “He’s a competitor and usually doesn’t like to sell any players to his rivals, but it’s a good favour for us and now we have to take advantage.”
"When you play at the top level, the leaders on the pitch make the difference"
As if written in the stars, Cech looks likely to make his competitive debut for the Gunners in the Community Shield tie against his former team. With Wojciech Szczesny now an AS Roma player and David Ospina only just returning from his summer holidays, Cech will have to forget his affiliation with the Blues and concentrate on winning his first trophy with his new team.
Flamini says Cech, who won four Premier League titles with Chelsea as well as a Champions League, is already emerging as an important figure in the dressing room.
“I can feel Arsenal now is different to the club I left in 2008. I don’t think any of the key players have left in the last two years"
He added: “Petr is very important, not only for his quality but also for his character. When you play at the top level, the leaders on the pitch make the difference. Not only when things go well, but especially when things go bad.”
The signing of Cech is the latest in an increasing line of world-class stars to be arriving at the Emirates rather than leaving. For Flamini, Cech's arrival is further evidence to how much this Arsenal team is different from the one he left in 2008.
“We have attracted a lot of quality to the team with some very big signings,” Flamini said. “We have kept the same group. If you remember, there were always a few players leaving and how he is keeping the players together.
“I can feel Arsenal now is different to the club I left in 2008. I don’t think any of the key players have left in the last two years. And each year we have added quality players like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech.”
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