Bernd Leno says he’s eager to play in the Europa League final against Chelsea on Wednesday, regardless of the sentiment surrounding Petr Cech and his former club.
Leno has been Arsenal’s number one goalkeeper for the majority of the season, taking the Premier League matches whilst Cech settled for the cup competitions and the Europa League.
Now the club’s priorities have changed, with the Europa League suddenly the only way to achieve Champions League football, but Cech seems set to keep his place in goal nonetheless. After all, this is his final chance to play a match before his retirement, and it’s against his former team, Chelsea.
Clearly, there are plenty of non-footballing reasons to put the 37-year-old in goal, but Leno doesn’t have much time for those. Despite getting along well with Cech, the German insists he’s desperate to start on Wednesday.
“I have great respect for Petr, and we get along very well,” Leno said to Kicker (via Metro). “He deserves all credit, and I treat him well. But it’s clear that I’m a competitor, I always want to play, especially in a final. Therefore, it would be the completely wrong time to have a guilty conscience.
“I’m certainly not going to say ‘I’d rather not play’. I’m keen to play. That’s my mindset. However, it is not decided yet. [If Emery picks Cech] I would have to accept it. The most important thing is that we win regardless of who is in goal.
“To win the Europa League would be the first big title for me. We all want to hear the [Champions League] anthem again.”
It certainly does seem a bit bizarre that Cech could start the match that will define which European competition Leno will start in next season. Then again, the veteran goalkeeper has done well in the Europa League, keeping six clean sheets in 10 games, so it’s not as if he’s really earned being dropped either.
As Leno says, the most important thing is simply getting the win, whichever players take to the pitch on Wednesday.