Cech or Schmeichel: Who is the best-ever Premier League goalkeeper?
Beyond the final whistle that brings to a close a tight game, the thing that makes football fans the loudest is scoring a goal. The eruption of celebration and emotion is spontaneous and pure, so it was telling on Sunday that despite scoring three times, it wasn't the goals that elicited the biggest response from Arsenal supporters.
That came in the 62nd minute after Watford had been awarded a penalty. Troy Deeney stepped up to get his team back into the game, the only obstacle between him and that was Petr Cech.
The Arsenal goalkeeper had faced 15 penalties since his arrival at the club in 2015 and had yet to make a save. Perhaps the law of averages was on his side, but that barren run simply added to the pressure. When you're beaten that often -- and there's a wider point about how many spot kicks the Gunners concede -- it almost becomes self-defeating.
This time though, the 35-year-old got it right, getting a strong enough hand to Deeney's effort to keep the ball out and for Sead Kolasinac to hack the ball to safety. The crowd's reaction was immense -- not simply because at long last Cech had made a penalty save, or because it was hugely important in the context of the game.
The celebration was for the save, but it was also because it was from Deeney. After the Hornets came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 earlier in the season, the Watford captain took it upon himself to cast aspersions on the character of the opposition players and team in a postmatch television interview.
It was the kind of interview you rarely hear, not just because it demonstrates a lack of respect for fellow professionals, but because you're also setting yourself up for a fall if you fail to display the very characteristics you're accusing others of lacking. Missing from the spot is a failure for a forward, some might say it shows an inability to cope with pressure -- which is exactly what Deeney said was missing from Arsenal.
What goes around comes around and the fans at the Emirates on Sunday made that very clear to the Watford man as Cech made the save. There was also a measure of relief too, because had he scored it would have made an already tight game more difficult.
Although 2-0 up, Arsenal's second goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had come very much against the run of play. Watford had enjoyed a good spell of pressure either side of half time, and such is the fragile nature of this team's confidence that being pegged back immediately would undoubtedly have increased the nervousness.
Letting slip winning positions has been one of the frustrations of the season, and with performances of late so unconvincing, the importance of keeping the penalty out can't be underestimated.
Nor too the fact that with AC Milan coming on Thursday, the need to build on the win in the San Siro last week was obvious. The last chance of success this season lies with the Europa League, so after a good first leg the last thing Arsene Wenger would have wanted is to be firefighting after another disappointing result.
The other big positive of the day was the fact that Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ended up with a goal and an assist each. The two know each other very well from their Borussia Dortmund days, and having moved on three players in January who scored 60 percent of their goals last season, Arsenal really needed these two to click straight away.
Aubameyang now has three goals to his name, while the Mkhitaryan has two goals and five assists. It's early days, but the signs are promising, and the fact they combined with such efficiency -- especially for the second goal at a time when Watford were pressing hard for an equaliser -- speaks to an increased attacking potency which will be very useful if they can continue to repeat it.
The day, however, belonged to Petr Cech who finally got the clean sheet he needed to take him to 200 in the Premier League, and the fact he thwarted a pantomime villain was the icing on the cake.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.
An emergency meeting was held on Monday morning following pitch invasions and crowd disorder during West Ham's 3-0 defeat to Burnley on Saturday.
The arena's stakeholders were called together to prevent a repeat of the pitch invasions and clashes between players and fans.
West Ham's owners want to take over stewarding of the stadium, according to reports, after co-owner David Sullivan was struck in the face with a coin.
But such decisions are less straightforward for the Premier League club than they would be elsewhere in the league because of the complicated ownership and operating structure of the rented former Olympic Stadium.
West Ham, venue owners E20 Stadium LLP -- which includes interests from the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council -- and the London Mayor are all involved, but London Stadium 185 operates the stadium and is responsible for safety and stewarding.
The club immediately launched an investigation into the scenes -- which were apparently the result of anger from fans at the way it is being run -- and Newham Council told ESPN FC it, too, was investigating.
The Sports Ground Safety Authority, which is responsible for stadium licensing, is also involved and was reported to be at the emergency meeting.
Potential measures that could be introduced include increased stewarding numbers, a reduction of capacity at the stadium for West Ham's matches, and complete closure to fans.
There could also be punishment for the club from the Football Association, which is looking into the incidents.
"The FA strongly condemns the crowd disturbances seen today at West Ham United versus Burnley and will be seeking observations from West Ham as well as awaiting the match referee's report," the governing body said.
The Premier League added: "'It is essential that everybody who plays or attends a Premier League match can do so safely. There is no place at any level of the game for what happened at the London Stadium.
"While the official investigation of the incidents will be carried out by the Football Association, we will be asking our own questions of West Ham United about what happened, especially to ensure similar events never reoccur."
West Ham issued a statement after the match, which read: "West Ham United have immediately launched a full and thorough investigation into the incidents which marred the second half of today's match and are committed to taking decisive and appropriate action.
"An emergency meeting has been called with all London Stadium stakeholders. There will be no further comment at this time."
Former Everton and Tottenham Hotspur winger Steven Pienaar announced his retirement earlier this month after a glittering 18-year European career that also took him to the Netherlands and Germany.
The South Africa international is remembered by fans for his skill, high work-rate and strength, despite his 5ft7in stature. He also went to two World Cups with Bafana Bafana, in 2002 and then at home 2010.
'Schillo', named after former Italy striker Toto Schillaci, shared some of his fonder memories from his career in an exclusive interview with KweséESPN.
My first game for the South African national team [against Turkey in 2002] is one I will always remember and tell my kids about.
But also scoring against [Manchester] United and denying them the title [in the 2011/12 season], that was one of my favourites ... even my favourite maybe. Drawing 4-4 after coming from 3-1 down and scoring... it is a game a lot of people will remember me for.
Richard Witschge [at Ajax Amsterdam]. He was a senior player at the time and had played for Barcelona and with Zinedine Zidane [at Bordeaux]. He was one of the best players I saw at Ajax in my time. But he was also one of the weirdest guys I have ever had in the dressing room.
He once put bubble-wrap into Nikos Machlas' Porsche, filled it right up. Niko opened it and it just spilled out all over. He didn't even ask who had done it, he knew who it was.
But Richard was also always there to give advice and had plenty of stories... he said that when Zidane was later asked who was the best player he had played with, he also said Richard!
He would say, 'I am the only guy who can pass a ball from anywhere on the pitch and put it on your neck where you want it'. He was right.
I have two. The first one was for Everton against Arsenal that I scored in the snow [in 2009/10]. Being on the counter, getting a through-pass in the snow. It's just you and the keeper and you are thinking, 'What am I going to do?'. But I think the snow made me calmer and I just lobbed it over [goalkeeper Manuel] Almunia's head. I think a lot of Everton supporters remember that goal.
Then there was a goal that I scored [for Ajax Cape Town] against Orlando Pirates [in 1999/00], the team that I supported. I also denied them the title with that goal. The one against Pirates was extra-special, I picked up the ball from our 18-yards and ran all the way into their box and scored.
Team you most wanted to beat
Liverpool... but I didn't have so many good occasions against them. And [Manchester] United. They were teams I always wanted to beat because I know a lot of people in South Africa support those two clubs.
And playing for Everton, I knew the special relationship between the three clubs, with the fans. It was always special if we won against United or Liverpool. I can say those are the two clubs I really wanted to win against.
We [Everton] played against Spurs at White Hart Lane and at halftime we went into the dressing room. [Leon] Osman was sitting next to me. I took my jersey off, we were talking and the manager [David Moyes] was going on. We had been quite good in the game as well so it was positive.
We went out for the second half and I was already on the pitch when I heard, 'Hey Steve, come back!' I had put Osman's shirt on for the second half!
MANCHESTER -- Paul Pogba has missed training ahead of Manchester United's Champions League clash with Sevilla on Tuesday.
The midfielder missed the 2-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday after suffering an injury in training on Friday. And he wasn't part of the training session open to the media on Monday morning as United prepared for their Champions League round-of-16 second leg.
No Jones, Rojo, Herrera or Blind. Bailly is training after his injury scare on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/IMZAARjEdc
Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic did take part. The tie is finely poised after the goalless draw in Spain last month.
More to follow.......
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.
Petr Cech reached a landmark 200 Premier League clean sheets on Sunday -- but is he the best goalkeeper the league has ever seen?
Peter Schmeichel has won five league titles to Cech's four, so who is better?
With the utmost respect to David Seaman, Edwin van der Sar and David De Gea among others, Schmeichel and Cech are out on their own as the Premier League's best in goal.
Here, we argue who is better and you can vote too.
Arsene Wenger summed it up simply when asked if Cech ranks among the Premier League era's greatest goalkeepers.
"Yes of course. When you look at what he has achieved -- consistency is always the most difficult thing in life," Wenger said last Sunday.
And that's what really sets Cech apart -- the ability to consistently stay at the top of the game for so long. The 200 clean sheets is a record that will probably never be broken, while he also tops the list of most Golden Glove awards with five (though that award didn't exist in Schmeichel's days).
Cech did have the benefit of arriving in the Premier League much earlier and playing 122 more games than the Dane, but he actually has a better ratio of clean sheets per game than Schmeichel as well -- 46 percent compared to 41. And that's despite having to play the last three years behind Arsenal's notoriously shaky defence.
But it's not just the span of his career that gives Cech the edge. His glory days at Chelsea set a new standard for goalkeeping in the Premier League. In his first season in England, Cech kept a record 24 clean sheets as Chelsea conceded just 15 goals -- also a record -- en route to their first Premier League title. Schmeichel fans will argue that it was a lot easier to keep clean sheets for a defensive-minded Jose Mourinho side than Sir Alex Ferguson's attack-happy United teams.
But it was also a lot easier to win titles with Ferguson's juggernaut teams of the 1990s than it was with a club that had never been at the top of English football before Cech (and yes, OK, Roman Abramovich's millions) arrived. Cech was not only the bedrock of Mourinho's first Chelsea side, he was also part of the glue that kept the team together through the many managerial changes that followed.
He also had an incredible habit of being at his best when it mattered most -- as evidenced by Chelsea's 2012 Champions League title. After helping see off Barcelona in the semifinals, his penalty save from Arjen Robben in extra time in the final may go down as the defining moment of his career.
His form may have dipped a bit this season as age starts to tell and mistakes have started creeping into his game. But when he was at his best, Cech was every bit as good as Schmeichel. And he did it for a longer period. -- Mattias Karen
You only need to look at how difficult it was for Manchester United to replace Schmeichel to know how good he was. He left Old Trafford in 1999 but it wasn't until Ferguson signed Van der Sar six years later that he finally settled on a first-choice goalkeeper.
Schmeichel arrived at United at a time when goalkeeping was changing. He signed from Brondby in 1991 but the introduction of the back pass rule in 1992 meant it was no longer enough for goalkeepers to be able to use just their hands. The Dane, though, made sure he didn't just adapt, he thrived under the new pressure. He made sure he was allowed to take part in passing drills with United's outfield players to get used to having the ball at his feet. Not every goalkeeper in the Premier League found it so easy. He had all the necessary physical attributes.
His height and size made him an intimidating prospect for strikers, especially in one-on-one situations. The way he rushed out with arms and legs spread to make himself as big as possible became his trademark. Ferguson would say Schmeichel made saves "he had no right to make" which is all you can ask from your goalkeeper.
His performance against Newcastle at St James' in 1996 was one of the great goalkeeping displays in the Premier League era. Not only was it near faultless, in came in a big game that helped United win the title. Schmeichel won everything at Old Trafford. Five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup, Super Cup and the Champions League. He helped United to two doubles in 1994 and 1996 and the treble in 1999. He would have won more had he not decided to leave for Sporting Lisbon in 1999. Certainly, Ferguson thought he had years left and did not want him to leave.
Schmeichel played in great United teams and behind great defences that made his job easier. But there are few goalkeepers who have had a bigger impact in English football -- particularly since the start of the Premier League. -- Rob Dawson