Arsenal's Bernd Leno to start in Europa League with chance to unseat Petr Cech
LONDON -- Bernd Leno will finally make his debut in Arsenal's goal on Thursday and coach Unai Emery said he still has a chance of unseating Petr Cech as his No. 1.
Leno has had to wait patiently for his first minutes since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in a €25 million transfer this summer, but Emery confirmed he will start in the Europa League opener against FC Vorskla at the Emirates.
And unlike his predecessor Arsene Wenger, who used David Ospina as his cup goalkeeper throughout the last couple of seasons while Cech played in the Premier League, Emery said his two keepers remain in open competition for every game.
"The first decision for me in every match is about the performance. Tomorrow I will play Leno, but each match we are going to look at each performance," Emery said. "It's not that we will give Leno, Petr or Emi [Martinez] one competition to play in.
"I will start with Leno to give him his minutes and his chances in the game in this competition, but we are going to continue to look and test in every match."
Cech has started all five league games so far despite struggling at times to cope with Emery's style of play, which dictates that the goalkeeper takes an active part in the passing game when building from the back. Leno has a reputation of being the better goalkeeper with his feet, but Emery insisted it's the quality of Cech's performances that has been keeping the German on the bench.
"I think Petr Cech's performances have been good. He plays because he is doing very well," he said. "But each goalkeeper they have different qualities, Petr, Bernd and Emi. But they can't change our style. Maybe Leno has one quality better than Petr, maybe Petr has one quality better than Leno and Emi.
"But we need to improve each goalkeeper in our style. They are working each day in training with [goalkeeping coach] Javi Garcia and with us to do that."
Emery also said that teenage midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe could make his first-team debut on Thursday, while academy striker Eddie Nketiah will also be included in the 18-man squad. Right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner is also set to make his first start for the Gunners.
But Emery wouldn't say whether Lucas Torreira, another summer signing, will also make his full debut.
"I can give you [the goalkeeping] position for tomorrow with Leno, but other players I prefer to first say to the players officially that they are in the first XI. And we will do that tomorrow [Thursday] morning," he said. "We are going to change some players because we need to give some players minutes.
"But thinking [also] about our performance and our progress with the players. We are going to change and also in the 18 players there is two young players. But tomorrow we are going to give them the first XI."