Why Arsenal must start with Bernd Leno in the Europa League final

Published on 24th May 2019 by

With the UEFA Europa League final just around the corner, Arsenal boss Unai Emery needs to make a decision on who he opts to play in goal for the showpiece event in Azerbaijan. It appears the smart money would be on veteran stopper Petr Cech taking the gloves, but the form of Bernd Leno can’t be ignored lightly.

From Emery’s perspective, he is 90 minutes away from securing Champions League football so he surely needs to pick the strongest goalkeeper, despite Cech playing the vast majority of Europa League games this season. Whoever does get the nod against Chelsea, be sure to check out the Betfair UEFA Europa League markets now ahead of the final in Baku.

Leno deserves it
With so much at stake for Arsenal, it would be imperative to start with Leno in between the sticks and deep down, Emery knows it. A return to Champions League football is a must if Arsenal are to try and return to their former glory days, and they’ll have every chance of doing so if they start with their best goalkeeper.

That’s not to suggest that Cech isn’t up to the task; he’s been nothing shy of world class ever since he made the switch to England in 2004 but his best days are somewhat behind him now. Even looking at Cech’s league performances this season, they have been questionable and Leno has looked a cut above in his debut season.

Cech’s farewell
Cech will be hanging up his gloves for good after the Europa League final so in some ways, it would be the perfect farewell to start him against Chelsea. He has been a brilliant influence not just for Arsenal, but for his former employers as well so it would almost be befitting to play his last game against the club he served for 11 years.

Another case to start Cech would be that he has played in ten of the 14 games in the Europa League so far, but a game of this magnitude will certainly provide Emery a selection headache. Emery is perhaps torn on whether to remain loyal to his European goalie, or opt for his strongest ‘keeper with so much at stake.

Conflict of interests
Cech may well be retiring from professional football after the final, but he isn’t expected to say goodbye to the game overall. Recent reports suggest that Cech will be taking up a sporting director role at former club and Europa League finalists, Chelsea. That alone should provide enough reason to let him sit the final out, with the potential conflict of interest larger than most in football.

It really does provide a predicament for Emery, especially if Cech was to make a glaring mistake in the final. Emery needs to weigh up the pros and cons for playing Cech and as it stands, there’s more cons that are apparent. If there wasn’t so much at stake for Arsenal and Emery, it would be more than fair to give Cech his swansong but as it stands, he must play Leno in order to stand the best chance possible of lifting a fourth Europa League crown.

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