It is probable that Unai Emery will select Petr Cech as the Arsenal starting goalkeeper against Chelsea in the Europa League final in ten days time in Baku, Azerbaijan but is it the right decision?
I do not think it is, I am of the opinion that you choose your best possible team in a match that is as critical as they come.
Let’s look at what is at stake here.
If Arsenal wins they pick up their first major European trophy since 1994.
Arsenal qualify for next season’s Champions League
Arsenal get to play the Champions League winners in the European super cup
Arsenal get a bigger transfer budget
Arsenal can attract better signings
But a loss means
Arsenal play in next season’s Europa League again
Arsenal lose tens of millions in Champions League prize money
Arsenal get a lower transfer budget
Arsenal is not such an attractive option for ambitious players
Arsenal risk losing some of their better players
So, without a doubt, this is a huge game with massive consequences.
Now, why would Cech be selected?
Because he has played every Europa League game this season, because it is his last top class professional match ever and because he will be playing against his former club and therefore will be highly motivated.
That is the argument for selecting Cech but I have to ask myself if he was our best keeper why is he not our number one choice in the Premier League?
The reason is simple, he is not our best keeper, Leno is, no manager with credibility chooses their number two in the Premier League, they select their number one choice it is as simple as that.
So, picking your number two in the clubs biggest game in years makes no sense to me, this is not the time for sentimentality, this is not the time to stay loyal, this is the time to pick your best possible option, no ifs no buts.
The Europa League final is just too important to Arsenal to take chances, a loss could in effect set us back years, a win could kick start a new era and to risk that out of some sense of doing the right thing is in fact, doing the wrong thing.
To me there is no debate, Leno is the more reliable, more agile, sharper keeper, he comes out of the area better and while he may not be as physical as Cech he is faster and simply the better goalie.
I have yet to hear an argument that makes a case for Cech given preference over Leno and I believe that is because there is not one.