After a lovely bank holiday relaxing with the family yesterday, all of that has already been undone as I tap away at my iPhone this morning on the tube journey in to work, on account of what we’ll find out in the next 48 hours. By this time on Thursday our future will be known and I will be honest with you, it’s a horribly nerve wracking experience, more so than any other final I’ve worried about.
I suppose the wait for the match hasn’t helped but above all it does feel right now like this game shapes the next few seasons of the new regime at Arsenal. It’s fairly widespread knowledge that Arsenal essentially have two plans in place for the summer. The first is with the trappings of Champions League football and the riches it provides, which will enable us to buy a certain calibre of player; the second is with Europa League once again on our doorstep and will mean that we have to go for ‘unbranded’ purchases, the ‘Tesco Value’ deals, the white labelled goods that sort of taste the same but in reality don’t always do so.
Defeat tomorrow brings the disappointment of losing another European final. That will sting for some days. But what will sting all summer is knowing we might struggle to attract the best players without the Champions League cash or the opportunity to play in it. Arsenal’s self sustaining model ensures that any road back to the big prizes is longer and more arduous than those teams who have sugar daddies to inflate them artificially through their own personal wealth.
Unai seems to be ok though. He seems to be enjoying life and Arseblog has done a great translation of his interview with the Spanish media that’s worth a read. I particularly like the imagery of Arsenal being a ‘chameleon’ team. Imagine how much of an advantage it would be if we could just change in to the colour of the pitch as Hazard thinks he’s though on goal, only for Sokratis to clatter right through him and set Auba away? I’ll have some of that thank you very much!!
We will need something for Hazard though. Chelski look to him for inspiration and to Jorginho to set the tempo of their play, so finding an answer to both of those players will be essential tomorrow night. As will our ‘keeper and although I’ve already kind of said my piece on that a few days ago, I thought it’s worth mentioning again because Leno has been asked whether he’d ‘do a Foster’ and not play out of respect for Cech. Correctly he’s said “if I’m asked, of course I’ll play” and that is perfectly right. You can’t have a goalkeeper missing out on a cup final because of sentiment. He’s a professional footballer and it’s his job to be professional. He needs to approach each game as though he might be called on.
Imagine if mentally he’s just shrugged his shoulders at the cup final and then Cech gets injured in the first ten minutes? How can you honestly call on a ‘keeper who was like “nah, not playing, give it to that guy”?
The answer is you can’t and much like Cech for most of this season, he’s had to prepare for each match as if he might be ready to play at any time and I’d expect Leno to do the same.
Let’s also not forget how many cup finals Leno has played in compared to Cech. At 26 Cech had already notched a fair few and so Leno absolutely is within his right to hope that he plays in this one tomorrow. He hasn’t had many in his career and if he doesn’t play tomorrow but remains Arsenal’s number one for a number of seasons, there’s a chance he won’t play in a number of finals, as that seems to be the fashion these days at top clubs. The reserve ‘keeper always gets the cup finals and so unless we find another ‘keeper that shunts Cech further down the list, we’re unlikely to see him in many more cup finals, especially if Emery keeps to his word and plays Cech tomorrow and reserve ‘keepers for all future cup games.
Anyway, not long now, so the countdown begins….hold me….