Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka (l.) has played a key role in Bremen's rise from relegation worriers to mid-table dwellers. - © imago / Team 2
Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka (l.) has played a key role in Bremen's rise from relegation worriers to mid-table dwellers. - © imago / Team 2
Bundesliga

Jiri Pavlenka: Werder Bremen's shot-stopper supreme and Petr Cech's natural Czech heir

There's a reason why the German press have taken to labelling Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka Werder Bremen's 'gloved guardian angel'.

The Czech Republic No.2 has pulled off all manner of outlandish stops in his debut Bundesliga campaign, encapsulated in one super-human effort in the Matchday 32 draw with Borussia Dortmund.

Watch: Bremen vs. Dortmund turns into the Pavlenka show

"I'm not sure he knows how good he is," said Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt recently, playing over Pavlenka's cat-like reflexes in his mind. "He's been great for us. For me, he's been one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga so far this season, without a doubt."

Few would disagree. Pavlenka has started all 32 of Bremen's Bundesliga assignments since joining the north German giants from Slavia Prague last summer, conceding an impressive low total of 39 goals - a watertight tally better by just four clubs in the division. Pavlenka has also kept seven clean sheets.

- © imago / Revierfoto

Although Bremen have shown a marked collective improvement since the appointment of Kohfeldt in October – they were second bottom and winless at the time - it wouldn't be doing the rest of the team a disservice to say the Green-Whites would not be where they are now – looking up rather than down - without Pavlenka.

His ability to come up with big saves in big moments has contributed to Werder climbing from a position of three points below the relegation play-off spot to being in the safety of 12th in the table with two games to play. That their relegation fears were long since allayed can also partly be attributed to their 'keeper's brilliance.

Even more impressive is the fact that Pavlenka cost Bremen a reported €3million – a veritable bargain in today's market, yet still significantly more than the €600,000 former Werder sporting director Klaus Allofs was unwilling to pay for a certain Petr Cech almost 17 years ago. The now Czech legend had a promising trial with the club in spring 2001, before finding fame and fortune with Sparta Prague, Rennes, Chelsea and current employers Arsenal.

Unsurprisingly, Pavlenka counts 35-year-old Cech as one of his goalkeeping idols, and the similarities are plain to see. Their nationality, stature and attributes all match up – they've even tread the self-same grass of Bremen – but while one is in the twilight of his career, the other has the football world at his 26-years-young fingertips.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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