Petr Cech has described his first season at Arsenal as "very strange" and has blamed their failure to win the Premier League on the club's numerous injury problems.
Cech was the only major addition in a quiet transfer window last summer, signing from Chelsea in a £10m deal after he was given permission to leave.
He was hailed as the missing piece in an already impressive Gunners side and his arrival instantly elevated them to one of the main threats for the title.
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Going into the new year, Arsenal were leading the way but a series of poor performances saw them miss out to a stunningly resilient Leicester City side. But Cech believes Arsene Wenger's men could have kept hold of first place had they not lost a number of key players to injuries.
Indeed, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have each spent at least a month out with an injury at some point this season with many of those suffering serious afflictions that have kept them out for much, much longer.
Very strange season
“It was a very strange season in a way,” he told Arsenal Player. “If you look at the number of injuries we had, it is not a big number compared to previous years or compared to other clubs. It’s not a big difference but unfortunately for us, every time we’ve had an injury, it’s been long-term.
“We had a great squad at the start of the season. Danny was coming back, Jack was coming back, and it was a very strong group. Unfortunately, Jack got injured right before the start of the campaign, Danny had the same problem, Tomas had the same problem, and these were all long-term injuries. Santi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became long-term injuries too."
Cech and his team-mates have had to take plenty of stick from Arsenal fans after falling short on all fronts this season. With Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City never mounting a serious challenge, it should have been there for the Gunners to win.
But Cech believes that Arsenal coped with their situation very well and only came undone when the sheer amount of games started to take their toll in February and March.
“Overall, it’s been a good season, not one you would look back on and call a brilliant season"
He continued: “If you have so many important players out with long-term injuries, it does give a chance to everybody else, but it can hurt you at certain times. If you have seven games in 21 days and your opponent has had six days off to prepare, you don’t have the advantage of rotating players.
“I thought we did so well most of the time to be able to cope with that, but unfortunately, in the end, we lacked a bit of energy in February and March when we dropped points. This is where the difference was made.
“Overall, it’s been a good season, not one you would look back on and call a brilliant season, but there were a lot of positives and things to build on. Hopefully we can step up and have a great season next year.”
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