The Gunners take on the goalkeeper’s former club in the Europa League final on Wednesday night – but it’s still not clear who will start in goal
Petr Cech’s integrity should not be called into question ahead of Wednesday night’s Europa League final, according to former Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone.
Cech looks set to bring down the curtain on his long and illustrious career by starting for the Gunners against former club Chelsea in what will be his final game as a professional.
But there are some Gunners fans who do not believe the 37-year-old should play in Baku following stories which claim he will rejoin the Blues following the game as a technical director.
Unai Emery refused to confirm whether Cech would start when quizzed on the subject during his pre-match press conference at the Olympic Stadium, but said he retained full trust in his keeper despite the speculation.
“I respect him a lot,” said Emery. “His career is amazing. First as a person, second like a professional.
“He deserves trust in him. Because his career says to us he is a gentleman. On Wednesday he can start or not start. I am going to decide.
“But both will be with respect. How can we not believe in him?”
And Mannone, who spent seven years at Arsenal between 2006 and 2013, is adamant Cech will not let the Gunners down if he does get the call against his former club.
“It’s a difficult one for the manager,” the Italian, who is currently on loan with MLS side Minnesota United from Reading, told Goal.
“The story about Cech going back to Chelsea makes it’s very tough for Emery.
“I understand some of the fans and what they are saying. But knowing Petr, he’s a great professional and he wants to win and he wants to win for Arsenal.
“So I don’t think he is going to change anything on the pitch because of anything that might be going on off it.”
Bernd Leno has been Arsenal’s No.1 ever since he replaced Cech just after half-time of Arsenal’s 2-0 Premier League win against Watford in September.
The German has enjoyed an impressive first season in England, but his last Europa League performance came way back in October when Danny Welbeck’s goal gave the Gunners a 1-0 win at Sporting CP.
Leno has stated ahead of Wednesday night’s final, however, that it would be hard to turn down the opportunity to start in Baku, even if that did mean Cech missing out on one final appearance before his retirement.
So it leaves Emery with a difficult decision to make ahead of a match that is vital to Arsenal’s long-term plans as they attempt to get back into the Champions League for the first time in three seasons.
“Cech will be thinking I want to start my last game and retire with a trophy against my old club,” said Mannone. “But Leno will be thinking I’m No.1, I’m young, full of energy and I want to play.
“It’s an interesting situation for the manager. I’ve seen it go either way in the past. It can go well, or go bad.
“After the game there is always a reaction. If it goes wrong and the keeper who starts is bad, it can be very bad. But if the keeper goes well, it will be that was a great decision by the manager. That’s how it goes.
“If Cech starts and does well, he done well for Arsenal, one a last trophy and ended his career. Happy days.
“If it goes wrong some fans will say ‘I knew it’. Football is funny like that.”
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